No ABC Playback for you!

EDIT – apparently not happening for everyone. But I do have confirmation it’s not just me.

ABC Online - Broken Playback Link

The Australian national broadcaster, ABC, has announced its new Playback service, which will be “Australia’s first internet TV service with full screen quality pictures [which] will launch following a beta test period.”

After the announcement, there was a fair biit of media coverage, and rightly so – it’s a mjaor announcement and something the ABC is doing well ahead of the commercial broadcasters. It’s high profile stuff, and there’s a link on the ABC home page to allow interested people, like me, to sign up tfor the beta.

Trouble is, it’s dead in the water as far as I can tell. The link has never worked, and despite emailing the ABC to let them know it’s broken, there’s been no response. Here’s what I get when I click the link:

Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Page Not Found


Apple TV – not feeling the love

Apple TV

I really want to like the Apple TV. I think it’s a great idea and has a huge amount of potential. However, it’s deep ties to iTunes and the iTunes libraries of device owners essentially makes it a low-value (so low as to be effectively not worth the AU$449 it costs) device for us Australians.

For US owners, for whom a wealth of television and movies are available through the iTunes Store, there’s obvious and demonstrable value. If I was in the US, I could happily and relatively cheaply download all my favorite shows plus the occasional film from the iTS, pass them to my Apple TV and watch them to my heart’s content.

Here in Australia, where no television shows or movies are available through iTS, the value proposition offered by the Apple TV out of the box is questionable at best. The hackability of the device offers alternatives to a very small number of potential purchasers who might be able to add video downloaded through other sources to their Apple TV. But for the vast majority of (potential) purchasers, hacking their Apple TV is never going to happen.

For the time being, despite the additional cost, an AU$949 Mac Mini with Wireless Mighty Mouse (AU$109), Apple Wireless Keyboard (AU$99), appropriate cables and equinux’s MediaCentral (US$29.85) offers better value given the capabilities offered. I’m not sure how you’d add 802.11n to a Mini, but even if you ran CAT-6 through the walls, it’d work a treat.

Hey, you could even get yourself a Buffalo LinkTheater for around AU$500.

I’d love to hear that I’m completely wrong on this, but I don’t think I am. Let me know your thoughts.

Not available from your location

I blogged last week about the state of television.  Here’s yet another example of the rubbish television viewers are being put through.

Because I’m in Australia, where Heroes has not yet been screened, I am unable to view or listen to the episode commentaries.  Braindead.  This isn’t about DRM or anything related, it’s about sucking money from as many markets in as many ways as you can.
Thankyou SciFi Channel for making commentaries, webisodes, video blogs and everything else on offer available to me for Battlestar Galactica and The Dresden Files in spite of the fact that neither show is screening current episodes on the Australian affiliate.

Aussies TV pirates

Obvious… And no wonder, the delays experienced are unreasonable, particularly given the small number of inroads being made by networks on shows such as Jericho, which screens here less than 24 hours after US broadcast. This proves that there is no justification for the unreasonable delays that Australian viewers are constantly put through. On top of the broadcast delays, the scheduling unpredictability disasters that Australian viewers are regularly subject to (over time, I’ve seen shows such as Buffy, The West Wing, Angel, Babylon 5 and just about anything else you’d care to name suffer at least once) prove the networks care little for their audiences.

Frankly, Australian television networks, their owners, scheulders and marketers are largely stuck in the dark ages of the 1980s (and earlier). The free-to-air networks are heavily invested in lowest common denominator “reality” shows that fulfil their local content quotas with execrable pap. There are few programs of value shown on any network other than the two national broadcasters – and I’m not talking about intellectual stuff here, I enjoy a decent comedy or soapie as much as the next guy. News and current affairs has generally descended into tabloid magazine fare.

This includes the (effectively) sole pay TV provider, who more than 10 years after launch barely has anything approximating interactive television/value-add television such as that which can be seen in the UK and US. That and the high pricing are the reason pay TV has only 30 per cent penetration here as opposed to numbers closer to 80 per cent in comparable markets.

But I digress, this is about the downloading of shows soon after source market broadcast. I absolutely don’t blame Australian viewers for downloading shows from the US and UK using BitTorrent. Hey, if I have the opportunity to view the latest episode of Heroes and then be an active part of the discussion around it, rather than waiting who knows how long for an AUstralian network to show it, I’m likely to be tempted.

And I would love to see a definitive opinion on the legality of downloading shows once they have been broadcast. While IANAL, to me a downloaded show is no different to receiving a videotape or CD of the show recorded by a workmate and handed to you. This timeshifting practice has been conducted for years.

SciFi Channel coming to Australia!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Mostly…
Last night I spotted the announcement that the SciFi Channel is coming to Australia. It launches on several Australian satellite/cable networks on December 1.

I’ve had a look at the published schedule and while it looks good, and is a metric assload more decent SF than we’ve had to now, it doesn’t bear much resemblance to the US schedule. It also doesn’t reveal whether the series being shown are current or reruns (Battlestar Galactica comes to mind – I don’t believe Season 2 has even begun here on free-to-air). I’m guessing that’s a factor related to market testing and the Australian free-to-air channels having rights to first broadcast here.

I only hope they don’t do it the same injustice they did to TechTV when it was on here and Foxtel rebroadcast 8-12 week old days in their entireity and out of order.

A Rose by any other name…

I’ve just seen, Doomsday, the last episode of Season 2 of the new Doctor Who. Oh. My. God. Rose is gone! The best companion the Doctor ever had is gone! And the writing! The emotion! Argh!


Anyway, no more spoilers for those who’ve not seen it. All I’ve got to say is that Russell T Davies and his very talented staff have taken Doctor Who to places well beyond where it’s ever been before this year. Over and above the growth in the sheer scale of the show and it’s fabulous production design work, the thing that’s really stood out for me is the writing.
Without the quality in the writing, this show would have gone nowhere. And this year we’ve seen episodes like The Girl in the Fireplace and Doomsday which really just set the standard so high.

And now, all us fans have to wait until Christmas to find out who The Runaway Bride is…

Thoughts on the new Doctor Who

I’ve always been a Doctor Who fan, but this week’s episode, The Girl in the Fireplace, just blew me away. Stronger writing by a long stretch than any of the “new” episodes, except School Reunion. Fabulous characterisation and depth of emotion by all the actors – Sophia Myles is gorgeous beyond belief and totally believable as Madame de Pompadour and David Tennant’s lovestruck Doctor is a treat. For mine, this is one of the great Doctor Who episodes ever, on a very close par with (my memory of) Planet of the Spiders.

Neil Gaiman seems to agree with me!

Sorry to go all fanboy on you all. I just had to.

Doctor Who returns for 2006

Doctor Who 2006

Yes, that’s right! The 2006 season of Doctor Who has begun on the Beeb. And, having seen the first episode of the season, I can state that it’s every bit as good as the 2005 season. Make sure you take a look at Doctor Who Confidential on BBC 3 as well. Very worth it for the behind-the-scenes look at the show.
This year, David Tennant’s 10th Doctor brings a very different feel to the lead compared to last season’s outstanding effort by Christopher Ecclestone, but he’s no less the Doctor; tough, smart, sensitive and creative. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season, if the previews are anything to go by. We’re going to see Victorian werewolves, the return of the Cybermen and a return also for one of the Doctor’s former and most beloved companions – Sarah Jane Smith and K9!

How Battlestar Galactica Killed Broadcast TV

Not new, but this is a great article about the shift to user-controlled television viewing (based on downloading of shows, either legally or otherwise), driven by issues such as release and broadcast schedules in different markets. The success and viewing by worldwide audiences of shows such as Battlestar Galactica (and any number of others) is used as a key example of this shift and how makers and distributors might actually make real, profitable use of this shift. There is also a follow-up article.

I’m not allowed to use BitTorrent at work, so I’ll have to download the video of the conference presentation once I get home. Regardless, the two pieces make for fascinating reading.

For those who care, some quick statistics:

  • Battlestar Galactica Season 2 has not even begun showing in Australia yet (along with several other shows I enjoy and watch through non-broadcast sources);
  • on current viewing habits, I watch about 60 per cent of my television each week from non-broadcast sources.

This story may have been linked to on digg last week. I don’t remember where I found the link.