The Australian Broadcast Corperation has been a long time broadcaster of the Docter Who television series. During the first seasons of the new Doctor Who series, about 2005 or so, it wasn't possible to watch the episodes via the Internet, unless you went the Bittorrent way. The ABC experimented this season with making the episode available at the same time as the BBC broadcasted it, which is Sunday mornings for us, a week before it was broadcasted via the television.
But why would you want to download the episodes if you know they are broadcasted later anyway?
The technical answers are simple: Because it is possible. Internet traffic is cheap, specially if about two thirds of my cap of 150 Gb per month is generally unused. On the ABC I can see the non-HD version, on the Internet I can find the HD version.
The social answers are about the "feel included" issue: Initially the delay between the availability on the Internet and the broadcast at the ABC was long, weeks if not months. To their credit, last year the ABC reduced the broadcast delay compared with the BBC to one week. But considering that the global social interaction on the Internet happens "now", downloading the episodes to watch them now and be able to communicate on the social media is the only way to not have to feel left out.
And the last is the old argument of "I want to watch it when I can", and added the post 2008 "and where I can". When it is broadcasted, you need to be at home, available, not interupted by various house members of all sizes. The video recorder and digital recorder are a solution for this, but then you still are limited to watch it on your television. These days with iDevices and laptops you don't want to be limited to that anymore. The iView service overcomes this issue partly, allowing you to see it on any device, but it still needs a stable network, not something which 3G on a train trip can provide.
So... How did this experiment from the ABC go for me? For starters, I have watched all episodes via iView and haven't downloaded a single one via Bittorrent. Just like the previous seasons, I have seen them all at least twice to fully understand the story line. I watched the first one on Sunday, sometimes in the morning after breakfast, sometimes after the kids were brought to bed, without having to spend two-three hours first to download them. Unlike the previous seasons, I haven't watched it on TV this time; That really was a new thing.
So, for me the experiment was successful and I hope that the ABC will continue this programming.
One of the uses of my iPhone is as a replacement for the newspapers and other news sources. Yes, I can do this on the computer too, so far nothing new. The thing which fascinates me is how much time I spend on waiting for the data to be retrieved.
Take the ABC app. On it, I only read two sections: The Just In section and The Drum. I open the app, have to wait for the Latest News section (which is not the Just In section) has been loaded, then I tap for the overview of the sections (which is instantly) and then tap on the Just In section, for which the overview gets loaded. To read an article, I tap on that article which then gets loaded. So I have to wait three times before I can read a single article, and every other article I need to wait again. Even after having read the ABC news this way for about a good year now, it still doesn't remember which news sections I'm interested in and doesn't pre-load them.
Take the SMH app. It is a little bit nicer, you can tell it which sections you are interested in and only shows those. It opens the one you opened last time up first. Could be close to a winner! But then it has the same cons as the ABC app: It loads the index and when you tap on the article you want to read it loads that one. Waiting twice again.
Take the Volkskrant app. It has two major sections, the Just In section and the Opinion section. When you start the app, the index of the Just In section gets loaded together with the text of all the articles. When you tap on an article, it comes up immediately and then loads any images: You can read it immediately. So you only wait once.
Take the BBC app. Just like the Volkskrant app, it loads the index and contents of the main sections at startup, which also has a lot of images on it. When the article gets loaded, it will load the image on the article.
The method of loading of content done by the BBC app and the Volkskrant app is by far the most ideal way of using an online news app. I am not yet sure if I prefer the sober layout of the Volkskrant or the smooth horizontal scrolling layout of the BBC. But overall, I am looking forward to the day the Australian news apps have caught up!
When I moved from thet Netherlands to Australia I lost access to television.
Not because there isn't television here, but more because there is either much television (horizontal programming with reruns of old series) or not enough diversion on television (three commercial channels fighting for your eyeballs with reruns of old series, plus two non-for-profit and one community station).
The worst part is the delivery of the signal: Everybody here still has their own antenna on the roof or, even worse, inside their house. Were you used to receiving a crystal clear scala of stations via a municipal coaxial cable in your house, here you get (if you are lucky) six channels with varying quality. And nobody to complain at when it looks crappy (signal delivery wise). Oh boy, this was going back to the middle ages.
For a couple of years I haven't really worried about it. The only channels I am interested in are ABC (Doctor Who, The Chaser etc) and SBS (Top Gear, Mythbusters, any foreign spoken movie) and most of the time I managed to get a (relative) clear picture for them. The other channels had weeks in which one or more were undecodable for the human eye.
So what has changed? First, extra channels for the ABC and SBS, but only on the digital channels. And to tease us, they are showing Torchwood and the Tour de France on it. Now I'm not really easily blackmailed into something, but a combination of the Tour de France for me and Captain Jack for Naomi, that is something very hard to refuse.
So... We got a set-top-box and had a !@#*)!*#@) hell of a time to get it synced. For a long time we had nothing until I once by chance had a signal good enough to receive some ABC channels. And I was happy, because it also showed that there was an button on the remote control (but only once it had found a channel) which says how good the signal strength and signal quality are. Oh boy, finally something to work with. But it didn't find anything besides the three ABC channels. And now and then when I did a rescan it also lost the ABC channels... Even spending 70 dollars on a new antenna, with an amplifier, didn't work. Very frustrating!
It wasn't until this week that I understood that what I was doing was wrong: While the ABC showed up on channel 21, 22 and 23, that actually were logical channels on carrier channel 12. Once that principle was clear, I suddenly knew where to find other channels and one by one they popped up: SBS, Digital 44 and Channel 9. So far I haven't found Channel 7 or 10, but it will be just a matter of time. Maybe. So that Naomi can watch Jeff Goldblaum on L&O:CI and Dirkie can watch Funniest Home Videos.
So which channels do we have now? ABC (1, 2 and 3), SBS (1, 2, 3 and 4), NITV, D44 (including random news and the Federal parliament), Nine (crappy signal). Good enough for now :-)
SBS in Australia is currently broadcasting its own version of Top Gear, called Top Gear Australia. As an enthusiast cyclist and being with no interests for cars, I have a special bond with the original program.
The original Top Gear is currently presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. A grumpy journalist, a ADHD suffering DJ and a piano-teacher. Before I saw my first episode of Top Gear, I had seen Jeremy Clarkson at Robot Wars, where he used the same presenting style I later saw him with on Top Gear.
What does make Top Gear so good? It's just two reasons:
Yes, I have left out the Stigs weekly run-around-the-track and the celebrity track. The Stig character is funny and great in his role in the challenges but the run-around-the-track is boring and the celebrity part is good for the interview but, as said earlier, the run-around-the-track is boring. And I didn't mention the Cool-Wall neither. You can see, I'm not interested in the cars themselves, only in the pictures made around them and in what these three people do with them.
So, how does Top Gear Australia run? First, if people think it will be the same the original Top Gear, then they must stop dreaming. Three different presenters, three different characters, three different ways of thinking and three different attitudes towards life. It will never be same as the original Top Gear.
So far only two episodes have aired, and since everybody and their dog has given their opinion, often negative because of the reason in the previous paragraph, about it I was going to give mine, hopefully positive, about it.
The presenters are Charlie Cox, Steve Pizzati and Warren Brown. Of the three of them, I only knew Warren Brown from the recreation of the 1907 Peking to Paris race in which they used the same cars or kind of cars as the original contestants and of the appearance of his cartoons now and then on the ABC or SBS.
Charlie Cox tries to be the main guy, but is missing the charisma Jeremy Clarkson has. Steve Pizzati has the hyperactive and please-approve-of-this,-Charlie approach and Warren Brown is the hacker of the three, so far he has come up (oh well, presented) with the car converted into a shark cage and the Smart Funeral car.
The style of the show is the same as the original Top Gear, with reviews plus the Stig, celebrities and challenges. Instead of the Cool-Wall there is the "What Were They Thinking?" section.
So what is the initial verdict? Quite some people I spoke were negative about it, but I blame that mostly on expectation: If they expected one-on-one copies of the characters of Clarkson, Hammond and May, they had woken up with a cold shower. The scenery in the shots so far are okay, hopefully they will show all parts of Australia (desert, rainforest, mountains, coastal roads, wetlands etc). The two car challenges (Sand and Snow in one day and Utes at the gold mining pits) and two hacking challenges (Shark Cage and Smart Funeral car) were surely with the same chaos and quality of the original Top Gear. The run-around-the-track is still boring and I haven't recognized any of the celebrities yet (but I blame that fully on myself and not on the show :-)
I will keep watching this show through the first season and hope that it will give me the same laughs and warm feelings of the original Top Gear!
ObReferences: A lot of the technical data from the Challenges paragraph was retrieved from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Gear_challenges)
As the saying goes, the content on commercial television station is to fill up the time between commercials. And I've seen some sad examples of this here in Australia.
On free-to-air television in Australia you have seven channels:
With the rise of digital television, the ABC and SBS have taken the opportunity to improve the variaty of their content by taken a second, digital only, channel. The other channels are just re-broadcasting their normal channel.
The source for my decision, and this rant, lies in a single movie I tried to watch: The Battle of Britain. It's a historical movie, an old movie, slow in acting and in progress of the storyline, But it's a movie I wanted to watch because of the change in my cultural environment. Like I said, it's a slow movie, taking 45 minutes what these days gets pushed in 10 minutes of lousy acting and bad camera work. But these 45 minutes get interrupted by at least four commercials, taking you out of the careful orchestrated mood of looming battles and the upcoming darkness to a happy world of home loans, end-of-year sales and dieting products. At that moment the mood is totally scattered. After the first commercial you try to get into the magic of the movie again, but something is missing. The darkness doesn't come back so black, the upcoming battles don't seem to be so serious. Next commercial, and you wonder how many of them will be there before the end of the movie, and more importantly, how much more damage they will do to the movie. Next commercial, and the TV was turned off...
How can the commercial television stations ruin movies like this without getting serious problems with their conscience?