Sunday, January 18, 2015

Broken Broadcaster streaming websites

If you haven't tried to use them, you might wonder why the websites that Canadian broadcasters (or most often, the BDUs that own them) offer isn't a substitute for the subscription services I've been asking for.  You might ask why I would be willing to pay the BBC to watch Doctor Who when I could watch it for "free" by going to  The problem is these BDU/Broadcaster provided streaming websites are so poorly implemented that even if they were commercial free I would still prefer to pay for a working subscription service.

I have become used to well designed content distribution services like Netflix and YouTube which work well on all the devices that I own.  I prefer to watch television on my television, which means my Samsung Smart TV, BoxeeBox or Chromecasts.  I sometimes like to watch mobile with my ASUS Transformer tablet (Android), my Nexus 4 smartphone, or one of the variety of Chromebooks in our family.  The place I least like to watch television is on my desktop computer, although both Netflix and YouTube work perfectly fine on my desktop computers running Ubuntu Linux.

You also don't need to be highly technical to watch Netflix or YouTube on a television, while the contortions you have to do to watch television via legacy websites is something I'll never be able to train the rest of my family to do.

To contrast with the easy to use Netflix or YouTube services, during the recent Doctor Who season I tested on all my devices, and have only been able to view on my desktop computer.  Bell even provided an application in the Android App Store, and yet I gave up trying to watch on my Android phone or tablet given how painfully it is constantly pausing to catch up with the video.  Bell can try to blame my non-Bell Internet connection, but given I see the problem with their service and not with Netflix or YouTube it is clear the problem is with them.

This month I watched Broadchurch season 1 via Netflix, and when looking up Broadchurch on Wikipedia found that Season 2 is being shown by Showcase starting this month. I watched the first episode this afternoon.

While the Shaw provided streaming service for Showcase is better than the Bell provided streaming service for Space, I would still prefer to pay to subscribe to a properly designed service.

The Showcase website doesn't work on mobile devices as they seem to still be dependent on Adobe Flash which even Adobe themselves recognize is inappropriate for a streaming service and no longer provide for mobile or other such devices.  While Shaw Communications has some apps in the Android app store , non seem to be for accessing content on their streaming service.

I tried viewing on my Samsung Smart TV, only to have the video stop with error notices about the browser running out of memory. I only seem to be able to watch a couple commercials and a few minutes of an episode.

The website "worked" on the BoxeeBox, Chromebook and my Ubuntu Desktop, but it is painful to watch.   The video quality is low, and you can see video encryption artifacts nearly all the time. Sometimes the video would pause for a moment, but nowhere near as bad as the Bell streaming service on their Android app.

The most distracting aspect is how the commercials have been poorly implemented.  The video would pass the moment where you can tell the commercial was intended to be inserted, and then start the next scene.  You would get a few seconds into the dialog and the screen resolution would change and over a (sometimes frozen, sometimes video continuing) screen you would hear the commercial, and then finally the video from the commercial would start.  The commercial would play, and then there would either be a few more seconds of the scene from the TV episode, a blank screen, or possibly the little "loading" circle spinning in the middle of the screen.  Eventually a second commercial would manage to get loaded, and you just cross your fingers hoping you didn't loose too much of the dialog from the first scene after what should have been the commercial break.

This reminded me of the RogersOnDemand online service from years back, which also implemented commercials so poorly it made the service not worth using.

I might try to watch this season of Broadchurch on the Shaw provided service.  I got hooked on the show on Netflix, and while I would prefer to pay to access via a properly implemented streaming service, the second season isn't available that way yet.  While I understand why other people might take the third option (unauthorized download site), I will stick with putting up with a crap website or not bothering to watch at all.

When I watch television or movies, I want to get into what I am watching and not be constantly having to do technical contortions or be reminded about the poor technology platform.  This is something I've never seen done correctly by any of the Canadian broadcasters (or now the BDUs that own them).

Lets see if I make it to the end of the season before I give up and wait for the season to be released on Netflix.  I waited to watch Season 1 when it was finally made available on Netflix in December 2014, and maybe I will enjoy the series more if I wait until Season 2 is finally licensed for Netflix -- maybe December 2016?

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