On Demand

I’ve just watched episode one of TV3’s new series, Harry and it’s tremendous. It’s everything I like in a TV show. Unpleasant characters, good story, people I can relate to, people I despise. Great language, great setting, good camera work, wonderful acting. My hat is off to all involved, especially to co-writer and actor Oscar Kightley, who really brings the character and story to life. It’s subtle, it’s in your face, it’s appointment television of the old school.

Unfortunately I missed the appointment and so am watching it “on demand”. Doubly unfortunately, I’m guessing about a lot of the nuance because I watched the most grainy pixelated version possible and I only watched the first 20 minutes because I have to watch it on my PC in my tiny little home office on the world’s oldest office chair.

I did try to watch it on my iPad which I suspect would have been a better experience, not least because I was in bed but also because size wise, the “700k” stream (whatever that is) would hopefully have given me a better picture. As it was, on my 21” computer monitor it was as if Auckland was recreated in Minecraft especially for this series.

TV3 did have an iPad app, but some trouble with streaming versus downloading meant they pulled it off the Appstore a while back. It hasn’t been replaced, and trying to play the HTML5 stream on the iPad simply didn’t work. Swapping browsers to a Flash friendly one didn’t help either – after half an hour of downloading apps and upgrading/downgrading my iPad (depending on your view of Flash) I got the dreaded “Due to licensing restrictions, his content is not available on a mobile device” and that was that.

Yes, I probably should have watched it on the telly (on Wednesday evening, TV3 at 930pm if you’re interested), but I missed it. Yes, I probably should be glad I can watch it online at a later date, and I am – please don’t get me wrong – but this is quality television and should be shown as such.

The content model is broken. There’s simply no other way to look at it. If digital rights management, licensing, geographical restrictions and all the rest of it were taken away I’d be able to watch the show and they’d be able to play ads to me so I could reward them for their great work. Better than that, I’d pay to watch the show. Something like this I’d probably drop the money down for a whole season sight unseen, but for something untested I’d be keen to buy the first episode (or here’s a thought, give it away free as a taster) and then upgrade if the mood took me.

I’d want to watch it online. I’d want to watch it in HD. I’d want to watch it when I want, although I’m happy to have a time limit on that if you like. If it’s a keeper I’ll buy the DVDs and stack them on my shelf, unmolested by human hand or laser eye just like all the others I’ve got. They don’t even come out of the plastic wrap these days, but I buy them because it’s the only way I can see to reward the artists for their work. I’ve long since watched the shows the way I want and we’ve discussed before the legality of that.

This isn’t TV3’s fault entirely. Nor is it Sky TV’s fault or TVNZ or any of our local content distributors. It’s much larger than that, it’s a critical failure of the initial content owners to understand the changing nature of their market and sadly, unlike the music guys who have finally got it (albeit very late on), the TV guys simply refuse to budge.

Sadly, content is the critical element that drives uptake of faster broadband services among the mainstream customer base. Home owners tend not to buy “broadband” internet, they buy “broadband homework” and “broadband gaming” and “broadband TV” all of which just so happens to require the internet to work.

If we want a faster broadband network in New Zealand that connects SME and corporate alike, we’re going to need to have the home owners see value in it and want to connect. In order to get them to connect, so they can use eHealth and eServices and eLearning, we’re going to have to give them eContent first and foremost.

My fear is, we won’t address this side of the market until it’s all too late. My hope is we get it done sooner rather than later, because I want to watch more of Oscar Kightley’s Harry and more shows like it. I just want to do it on my terms.