In 2007 I became aware of a new show called The IT Crowd in the United Kingdom and a bunch of my geek buddies were highly recommending it. I found, ahem, alternative ways to obtain the show since it was not available in the United States at the time. My son and I started watching it and it became a much beloved show, and we had a really nice shared bonding experience over it (since he’s a geek too).
Fortunately, today the show is available on Netflix in its entirety if you care to watch it. I wish Netflix streaming had been around then since I hated having to use those alternative ways to view the show back then but it was the only way to see it.
We got quite a kick out of one of its main characters, Moss (played by Richard Ayoade). Looking for a video I’d mentioned to a client on YouTube, I stumbled across a show which I’d never seen before: Gadget Man, starring Ayoade. Turns out he’s just as funny and engaging as he was on The IT Crowd, and the British penchant for smart programming (vs. low-brow reality TV like so much of U.S. cable) makes this a very engaging show to view.
Four big issues I have that are driving me toward the strong opinion that NOW is the time for world Internet TV and completely remaking how TV is delivered:
1) Bad Editing: My wife and I enjoy many British television shows including: Downton Abbey; Inspector Lewis; The Paradise; Mr. Selfridge; Call the Midwife; and several others. While I appreciate that the U.S. Public Broadcasting System (PBS) broadcasts the shows here eventually, they unfortunately edit them for time (and not very well, I might add, in the case of Downton Abbey).
2) Spoilers: The biggest issue I have is this though: It has become almost impossible to miss coming across the plot twists and outcomes since they are instantly shared on social media. That means that any fan of a show—especially one broadcast in the United Kingdom but shown in the United States months later—can be virtually guaranteed of having their future viewing spoiled by someone’s inadvertent revelations on Twitter, on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) or other venue.
3) Access: Another issue is one of access to TV shows. I can’t watch Gadget Man here in the United States (though many of the shows are on YouTube and have not yet been taken down by DMCA measures). Poking around BBC and ITV, I’ve discovered about a dozen other shows I would love to watch. Not being a British citizen and taxpayer, these networks have zero incentive to make their content available worldwide unless they can license it.
Yes, I could use my VPN to watch the shows on-demand from the UK or even use TOR to do so (albeit slowly) by setting up a fake account on BBC or ITV. I can specify that my IP address ‘appears’ to be emanating from the UK. One could also use bittorrent to download the shows, view TV shows and movies “for free” within the XBMC or Plex media servers, but these three latter types would surely see one caught for ‘downloading’ (i.e., streaming) copyrighted content illegally. I have too much to lose so will not take the risk.
4) Cost: So yes, I purchase a lot of shows on iTunes or Amazon. The kicker? After hearing rave reviews from friends about a show called The Mentalist starring Simon Baker (plus I watched the entire run of an earlier show with Baker called The Guardian and liked it). The first three seasons are $44.99 apiece and the next three are $49.99 per season or a total just under $285. Who is going to pay THAT to watch a show? Not me.
Netflix has proven that binge watching is the new model, or as my son says, “It is like watching a multi-day movie“, and the $8 all-you-can-eat model makes consuming content easy.
I’ve noticed that many networks are also playing in to binge watching in a smart way: They are releasing Season 1 for free on Netflix and thus they “hook” viewers who then watch the current Season 2 by recording it or viewing it through the TV network’s app or website.
What do you think? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
If you are a geek or interested in technology, want some fun viewing and to see what you’re missing with one show, the Gadget Man, here is the first episode I watched: