ABC Full Episode Streaming is Live… and it’s Spectacular
Seinfeld fans will note the Teri Hatcher reference in the title of this post, but I just tried out ABC’s full-episode streaming video service which launched a few minutes ago (around 2am this morning), and it is indeed quite nice.
Lost, Desperate Housewives, Alias, and Commander in Chief. They are all available online now if you live in the U.S. — free of charge. This isn’t some B-reel lineup of shows starving for attention. These are ABC’s most popular programs, and now thanks to Disney Brass, the ABC team in Burbank, and the Disney Internet Group in both Seattle and North Hollywood, they are viewable on any computer with a broadband connection. No more PVR-induced BitTorrenting for me… at least with ABC shows.
I have a special regard for this product because it was the last project I worked on before leaving Disney to start Newsvine. My work was in the proof-of-concept phase and the final product doesn’t share a single line of code or element of design, but I still feel an affinity for what has been accomplished here. I think it’s really, really great.
Some items of importance:
- This service is fully cross-browser and cross-platform. No Internet Explorer/Windows Media mess to worry about. I’m so glad Flash video won out in the end, and although Steve Jobs had nothing to do with it, I’m sure he’s happy that these shows look and work great on Macs.
- This is perhaps the nicest looking Flash video I’ve ever seen. Not only are the video dimensions nice and large, but the picture is extremely clear and not choppy at all. You can tell a lot of work went into the encoding and delivery process. It’s also interesting to note that this is 400k and 700k Flash streaming and not progressive download. Progressive download has been a lot more common than streaming in the past and it’s nice to see such a great example of true broadband Flash streaming in action.
- As great as this service is from a design and engineering standpoint, what’s been accomplished here from a licensing standpoint is just as significant. Disney has wanted to stream television shows for several years now. I remember working on early prototypes a few years ago, but the problem back then was that internet rights had never been negotiated into the deals of the network’s most popular shows. This wasn’t specific to ABC but to all major networks including NBC, Fox, and CBS. Most people think that when a show like Desperate Housewives airs on ABC, the network has full ownership of it. That is not the case. They generally have rights to do certain things with it (viz. air it on TV, sell it on DVD, etc), but only recently have networks begun including internet distribution rights in these deals. It looks like we’re finally starting to see the fruits of these new licensing terms, and it’s a great great thing.
- My only complaint here is the lack of ability to pop the video full screen. I remember talking to Macromedia about this awhile back but can’t remember what their answer was with regards to whether or not they’d ever be able to build this functionality into the Flash plug-in.
- Actually, I have one other complaint and that is that the video is not available internationally, but hey, you have to crawl before you can walk.
So head on over to ABC.com and check this thing out for yourself. I’m sure it’s just the beginning of a lot more video-related initiatives to come at Disney. Big ups to everyone over there and to all the peeps in the Seattle office!
One more thing: I believe this is officially a “trial service” which will run until June 30th. Hopefully it will do well and continue on long after that.