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Download Australian TV Shows with Nine's Catch-Up TV
Post by trog @ 02:07pm 23/06/08 | Comments
Channel Nine have launched a service offering free downloads of some of their TV shows, so we have a gander to see how it looks.

Regardless of what most of us hardcore Internet types think about Australian-produced television, it's undeniable that lots of people are watching it. Even with the inexorable growth of cable/subscriber television and the massive growth of broadband Internet and the propensity of people to download shows from international sources, Aussie TV shows are still pretty popular.

Channel Nine launched a service a while back called Catch-Up TV (http://video.ninemsn.com.au/catchuptv/), allowing you to download episodes - even entire seasons - of some of their content. Some shows, like McLeod's Daughters, have a per-episode cost, but others - including Canal Road and Sea Patrol are available completely free as ad-supported downloads.

Many people - including myself - have been wondering how long it'd take for ad-supported downloads of TV shows to hit the scene - it seems like such a logical evolution of ad-supported free-to-air television. We've been waiting a while, but now it seems that there's some movement. It's certainly not the sort of behaviour we've come to expect from the behemoth media companies that appear to rule the world.

Spawned from the loins of the open source Xvid video codec

Sponsored releases like this are nothing new. Typically though they're in some DRM-riddled format like Windows Media, which greatly reduces the accessibility and usefulness of the video content - you can't put it on your iPod, you can't copy it to your Xbox Media Centre - you can just play it on your Windows PC. Maybe.

One of the interesting things about Catch-Up TV is that it uses a new video system developed by an Israeli companed called HIRO-Media. A quick inspection of the codec seems to indicate that it is based on Xvid - the popular open source video codec used all around the world for all manner of purposes.

At first glance of the Hiro FAQ, the video player - which is a free installer from the Nine website - is a DirectShow filter for Windows Media Player. There's a Mac OS X version as well, but if you're on Linux you're out of luck for now.

You can play parts of the video in something like VLC (which identifies it as an Xvid), but there's a watermark over the top of the content, plus it seems to stop at random points (I assume by design), making playback in other players at the very least hugely difficult, if not outright impossible.



The Hiro codec provides all the usual things you'd expect from the Xvid codec - high quality at reasonable bit rates. They have a DRM system, but not one that tries to restrict your ability to use the media in the sense that traditional DRM systems do - though looking at their feature page, they can restrict playing.

The core purpose of their "Positive DRM" system used on these Australian TV shows, however, is to display the advertising. So there's definitely going to be some sneaky stuff happening on the back-end of your system, although hopefully less sinister than what we've sadly been growing accustomed to with other more rights-invasive systems.

And yet, what of sharing?

Here's the really amazing part - sharing/redistribution is encouraged. The Sea Patrol page says "You can also copy and share each episode or even distribute the files via file-sharing applications, such as Bit Torrent."

This is a great example of displaying some adaptability. Realising that it is basically futile to stop people sharing content online, Channel Nine have figured out a way to monetise the sharing process.

The more people that actually download these files off file sharing networks, the better - they'll get money off the ads displayed while they're watching it.

Other issues:

As mentioned above, Xvid appears to be the core of their video technology - it looks like they've just downloaded the Xvid sources and strapped on a dynamic advertising system along with some of their DRM functionality, plus some other bells and whistles.

Given that Xvid is released under the GPL and that the HIRO-Media team certainly appear to be using the Xvid codec to some degree it seems reasonable to assume that at some point there might be some issues to do with licensing of any of the Hiro stuff that isn't being released under the GPL itself.

Is it good enough? Could it be better?

Realistically, asking "is it good enough?" is asking "will people still download from unofficial sources?" If you were judging the two versions - ad-supported Hiro version versus the normal blog you'd download from a torrent or something - you'd probably use some standard criteria. Something like the below:

 Catch-Up TVUnofficial version
Download speed: Very fast (~2mbytes/sec on my test) Varying depending on source
Quality: Very good (decent Xvid) Probably very good (decent Xvid)
Portability: Very poor (only will play on Windows/Mac OS X when the Hiro codec is installed) Very good
DRM: Details unknown None
Ethically:SoundYou're a dirty pirate, yarr
Safety:Very safe, backed by the reputation of NineRisk of virus/adware/spyware


There's no doubt a few other factors that influence everyone in different ways and to varying degrees, but that's probably a reasonable high-level look at the situation. Both have pros and cons, but it's pretty clear that Catch-Up TV is a good system for newbs and those less technically skilled.

Overall, it is an excellent entry into the dangerous dark world of the Internet and hopefully we'll see more content publishers trying new and varied things to appeal to the new market. It certainly makes for a refreshing change of pace to trying to sue your customers into behaving how you want them to.



Latest Comments
sif greazy
Posted 02:49pm 23/6/08
What's available on Catch-Up TV?
Canal Road (M)
Sea Patrol II - The Coup (M)
McLeod's Daughters (PG)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA
(Mi)Cool_As_Ice
Posted 03:00pm 23/6/08
awesome idea... but why channel 9 lol. Gimmie some 10
WetWired
Posted 03:02pm 23/6/08
haha nice selection

regardless, with the advent of PVRs with PC streaming and 360s\PS3 that can play most video formats, having to use their software to watch these shows on TV is retarded and won't catch on.

It's bad enough having to watch Mcleods Daughters let alone watching it on a little monitor parked in an office chair.
deadlyf
Posted 03:04pm 23/6/08
Is this like what the ABC already do and have been doing for awhile? Oh yeah, except for the ads.
Fireblood
Posted 03:05pm 23/6/08
Awesome step forward!
Lets hope the rest of them catch on.

Personally I'd rather watch it without ads though.
Fnukle
Posted 03:06pm 23/6/08
Thats quite refreshing, will be interesting to see if their ratings improve or drop and whether they can make the difference in the downloaded add revenue.

Obveously at this time they'll be limited to shows they create themselves but hopefully it works out and other stations(US) take it on
trog
Posted 03:06pm 23/6/08
awesome idea... but why channel 9 lol. Gimmie some 10
Channel 10 actually have their own Catch-up TV but its just a Flash-based player so I didn't think it rated a mention.
Twisted
Posted 03:25pm 23/6/08
Canal Road (M)
Sea Patrol II - The Coup (M)
McLeod's Daughters (PG)
Jesus, they're really scraping the barrel aren't they.
mongie
Posted 03:28pm 23/6/08
That is the extent of Nine's Australian productions... What else would you expect?
Raven
Posted 03:36pm 23/6/08
They pick these shows for a reason: Because they know they won't get used via the service, so they can later point to the figures and say "we tried that, there was no demand". This is exactly what they're trying to pull here, once again.

Edit: Also, from that article:
Safety: Very safe, backed by the reputation of Nine Risk of virus/adware/spyware

Who the f*** wrote this? Sounds like they've been paid off by the MAFIA trying to beat that dead horse. Anyone with half a clue knows what a load of BS that 'reason' for not going with *nova or TPB is.

last edited by Raven at 15:36:53 23/Jun/08
trog
Posted 03:39pm 23/6/08
I wrote that. Maybe you didn't understand it. You don't know anyone that has gotten a virus/spyware by trying to download some warez or video they wanted?
Hyperslide
Posted 03:42pm 23/6/08
" Canal Road (M)
Sea Patrol II - The Coup (M)
McLeod's Daughters (PG)

Jesus, they're really scraping the barrel aren't they."

OMG Funny as .... they have gone beyond the barrel and are now scraping Marianas Trench (the deepest part of the ocean)
deadlyf
Posted 03:46pm 23/6/08
Obveously at this time they'll be limited to shows they create themselves but hopefully it works out and other stations(US) take it on

Many US stations, if not all, already do have their TV shows available via the net. Many also have them region locked so you have to be in the US to view them.

Most of them are through web based viewers though that are only slightly better then YouTube, I think that is supposed to be what is unique here with Nines version. Although like I said earlier you can download ABC shows off their website too in MP4 or WMV format for portable compatibility.
Nitro
Posted 03:49pm 23/6/08
I would rather watch the ads than those shows!
Dan
Posted 04:07pm 23/6/08
You don't know anyone that has gotten a virus/spyware by trying to download some warez or video they wanted?
Sure, i know of people getting nasties from pirate software and games, but the worse I've heard from pirate video and audio content _ever_ is that they've downloaded one thing and it's been a different video/song than it was labeled as.

The reality is that pretty much everywhere that shares infringing material has an attached community (even if only a comments system) that a glancing read of will tell you if there's anything wrong with any given download (or so I'm told). IMO, safety really doesn't rate as worth being concerned about when it comes to media piracy these days.
Bah
Posted 04:19pm 23/6/08
There are dodgy fake videos that when you play them say "you need "dodgy spyware" codec to play this, download it at blah.com". I guess its conceivable that some people could mistakenly download that fake, then stupidly download the "codec", after all if it didnt work why would they bother?

last edited by Bah at 16:19:19 23/Jun/08
trog
Posted 04:46pm 23/6/08
IMO, safety really doesn't rate as worth being concerned about when it comes to media piracy these days.
as I said in the article, people have different values depending on their circumstances. I rate it highly, not for me, but for all my relatives and friends that want tech support when they f*** their PC up. There's definitely a bunch of stuff out there targeting newbs that aren't part of the various communities; things like this present a much safer option for them.
sif greazy
Posted 05:35pm 23/6/08
I couldn't find any codec at www.blah.com
Explain yourself bah!
d0mino
Posted 05:37pm 23/6/08
I use ABCs video podcast streams on my XBMC every weekend. great to catch up on good game and gruen transfer, and summer heights high when it was on...
Phooks
Posted 06:04pm 23/6/08
ten were doing this months ago.
trog
Posted 06:24pm 23/6/08
close phooks, but way off
Scooter
Posted 06:26pm 23/6/08
I know some Mid-late 40's ladies at work which will be very excited to hear this news.
Twisted
Posted 08:44pm 23/6/08
ten were doing this months ago.
Uh...most of that just looks like interviews and other useless crap.
Farseeker
Posted 09:18pm 23/6/08
um, I've had full good news week episodes in my itunes from Ten in pretty good resolution for a while. Makes for good watching on the train
nF
Posted 09:29pm 23/6/08
I know some Mid-late 40's ladies at work which will be very excited to hear this news.


i bet you know them you animal.
ravn0s
Posted 10:30pm 23/6/08
ten used to advertise that you could download supernatural. still can?
WetWired
Posted 10:50pm 23/6/08
The question is, why would you want to?
Fnukle
Posted 11:15pm 23/6/08
Most of them are through web based viewers though that are only slightly better then YouTube, I think that is supposed to be what is unique here with Nines version.
Exactly what I was getting at... decent quality drm free(ish) shizzle. Not what is currently on offer here.

Tho I must say Channel Ten's flash player is extremely quick.
I caught a few Good News Week eps and it's suprisingly quick. Plays _as soon_ as you select an episode.
quality is a darn site better than youtube but no good full screen at 1920x1200 :P
Phooks
Posted 10:05am 24/6/08
close phooks, but way off

Uh...most of that just looks like interviews and other useless crap.

ten used to advertise that you could download supernatural. still can?



Scroll down the bottom you tards.
trog
Posted 10:16am 24/6/08
Scroll down the bottom you tards.
I think you'll find everyone did - show us where on that page that there's anything even remotely like what is discussed here. Note: you may need to read at least the news post first.
Twisted
Posted 10:42am 24/6/08
Scroll down the bottom you tards.
I don't want to scroll through endless s*** to find 1 or 2 shows.
Phooks
Posted 12:09pm 24/6/08


So me talking about ten giving free episodes of catch-up TV over the net is completely unrelated to you talking about channel nine giving free and ad-supported catch up TV over the net? Even if nine is using hiro codec and making it shareware, my point is still valid.

last edited by Phooks at 12:09:04 24/Jun/08
DirtyApe
Posted 02:37pm 24/6/08
Who cares, it is Australian TV and Australian TV is s***.
Tim
Posted 09:31pm 24/6/08
This can so eat my ass. If I want to watch TV on my PC I'll torrent it like everyone else thank you. And add free to boot.
trog
Posted 05:28pm 01/7/08
So anyway one of the guys from the Xvid development team got back to me about this and confirmed that they're using Xvid code in a manner that is almost certainly license-infringing.

This promises to be interesting as Xvid's legal status is probably questionable in some areas due to patent issues, so we'll see where it ends up.
Joolz
Posted 06:26pm 20/7/08
I really hope channel nine picks up big brother.
Twisted
Posted 10:03am 21/7/08
I really hope channel nine picks up big brother.
.....
mongie
Posted 10:06am 21/7/08
Who is infringing the copyright - Nine or Hiro?
Spook
Posted 10:41am 21/7/08
brave first post in these parts!

the bandwagon declares that we all hate bb and have to rubbish it
trog
Posted 10:48am 21/7/08
Who is infringing the copyright - Nine or Hiro?
Hiro is infringing on the license of xvid, by the sounds of things
the bandwagon declares that we all hate bb and have to rubbish it
just because its a bandwagon, doesn't mean its wrong
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