Among those developing products for the fledgling internet-television industry, a distinction is often made between content that is meant to be consumed while “sitting-up” (poised for action), and that which is more likely to be watched while “leaning back” (on your couch, half asleep with beer and chips in-hand). So, while the diet coke and mentos videos might fit best between emails, Desperate Housewives is clearly meant to be savored from afar.
A slew of media-extending devices, like Apple TV and Mvix, are intended to bring downloaded media to the living room. Other services like Joost, Vuze and Akimbo recognize that living room connectivity is only a cable away, so they create TV-like experiences direct from the desktop.
Here’s the issue: the principal value of internet-tv–like the internet in general–is content that is open, accessible and unencumbered. The onetime star of household connectivity, AOL, had to drastically alter its business model to play by these rules, but many internet-tv services, including those mentioned above, are not learning from the fable of AOL.
I want to watch Jetset, Lost and Punk’d, but I’m not willing to download and shift between three separate, closed clients, and while I am likely to subscribe to, and download, shows with services like Pando or Fireant, I will frequently discover a new show that I’ll want to lean-back and enjoy immediately. One major draw of old TV is its immediacy, but lack of immediacy is not necessarily a shortcoming of internet-TV
Certain services, like Brightcove, Blip.tv, VideoEgg and Revver –which I cited earlier as the best video platforms –enable instant full screen internet-TV in an open browser-based environment. The quality of these flash videos is limited by bandwidth alone (flash video can stream in HD).
ABC’s browser-based video player offers an exceptional lean-back experience, but they ruin it by making me stand up and cross the room every ten minutes. Hey ABC, cool it with the “click-to-continue” crap; otherwise, your player is cool. Netflix’ browser-based video player also offers instantaneous, high-quality, full-screen video, but, for now, it only works with Internet Explorer.
In an open, browser-based environment, seeking shows while leaning-back proves somewhat difficult, though the recently announced VeohTV — which is designed for consumers to search, browse and view video– claims to support open internet standards. I’m skeptical that this service will recreate the channel-surfing experience without some degree of human filtration, and I’m more skeptical that it will be as open as it claims (will it work with the ABC player? Netflix?) but I am eager to give it a shot.
Lean-back internet-tv is not contingent upon media-extending devices or walled-garden applications. True internet-tv promises to be as open and free-flowing as the internet itself.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m headed to my couch to watch The Take-Away Shows.