Posted Nov 4, 2010 in Tech | 0 Comments

Convenience

Convenience. This is a very powerful concept that has been known to create entire markets, is the core concept of countless companies, and that is arguably the basis of the internet. It is the very definition of modernity: We no longer hunt or farm our food, but rather buy it in packaged form from the supermarket. The microwave, freeze-dried foods, and instant oatmeal are all examples of society’s craving for instant – and more importantly, convenient – gratification.

There are very few examples where corporations attempt to go against the grain, so to speak, regarding convenience: The most prominent of which is television. They would have you plan your day such that you could drop everything and watch that new episode of your favorite show when it airs, without the possibility of pausing for bathroom breaks, or rewinding if you didn’t catch a piece of dialogue. Recall, they still don’t like DVRs – especially consumer-friendly ones like TiVo – often not counting them in viewership statistics.

Content providers especially hate one of the core components of modern convenience-oriented society: The internet. For years, long after it was technically feasible, they have refused to let viewers legally watch their favorite shows online whenever their schedule allows them. Content providers are starting to catch on, and are allowing a limited amount of new episodes to be shown on their respective websites, but new episodes are often not added until a day or so later. Additionally, if you are new to a show and want to see if you’d like it by watching the earlier episodes, you are often forced to buy the DVDs or the episodes on a service such as iTunes.

It is obvious that they still view cable/satellite as the primary method of consuming television, and only see the internet as a way of catching up missed episodes rather than the primary method of consuming television that it is for countless younger people who have grown up expecting a certain amount of convenience when doing anything.  They misunderstand the very real and very important shift in methods of consumption that the younger generation partakes in.

More importantly, content providers misunderstand the internet altogether: they try to only allow viewers from certain countries, using their IP address to locate them on a map, when something as simple as a proxy or a VPN can bypass this altogether. They also try and not allow any device with the capability to be able to access their streaming media: the PS3 browser was banned from accessing Hulu among other things, Boxee was banned then allowed then banned from accessing Hulu, and Google TV was banned from accessing content on the network provider’s home pages. Of course there are simple ways to circumvent these “bans” for each situation and allow viewers to consume television by whatever means is convenient for them, but it shows a willful ignorance of how their media is consumed.

Thankfully, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak: Netflix and Hulu plus. For a monthly fee, they both now offer the possibility of watching the entire back-catalogue of shows at your convenience, on the device or computer of your choosing. Netflix even goes a step further and offers new episodes for some shows as soon as they air. These services are unfortunately region-locked, but as long as there are regional distribution deals, this is unlikely to ever change, and Netflix is at least trying to incorporate other countries with its recent Canadian expansion. Every step forward is a good one.

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