The world just rang in a new year.
In the tech universe, every passing year brings with it expectations of the next big gadget, the next innovation, the next sea change in the way everything works.
And yet, in the world of entertainment, it’s as if the calendar somehow got stuck in 1993 and has never been able to move forward.
Check out the image that goes with this post. It’s a screenshot from one of the television apps I have loaded on my phone. The image represents one of the many infuriating aspects of modern entertainment.
I am a subscriber to a traditional Canadian direct-to-home satellite TV service. As part of the deal, I am able to watch channels (already a part of my subscription package) streamed through their app. But it’s just some channels — not all. Apparently, my provider has to negotiate separate agreements for distribution online.
Going the other direction, the same company owns several Canadian television channels. Those TV apps allow you to stream programming as well … except you have to log in through your service provider … assuming they support the app at all … and not all of them do.
Now, God forbid I actually want to watch television on … a television other than the one that’s attached to the receiver box. Nope, we can’t allow you to do that! (Hence the screenshot above.)
What if I am travelling and want to watch television in another time zone? Sorry, no timeshifting.
Travelling abroad? No service at all.
Speaking of geographical restrictions, it boggles the mind how certain TV and movie products continue to be licensed by country.
Wednesday night, while monitoring social media at work, I took great pains to avoid the many spoilers for the third season of BBC’s “Sherlock”. (Failed twice.)
After returning home, I immediately opened iTunes with the hope of purchasing a season pass for the show. Of course, while the program has debuted in the U.K., it has yet to make an official appearance on this side of the ocean … so no legal product for purchase on iTunes.
I can read online spoilers to my heart’s content and probably find an illegal download of the show … but I actually want to give BBC my money to watch the program and have no means to do it.
Along a similar kind of vein is the divergent availability of titles in Netflix Canada versus Netflix U.S.A. Whereas the entire library of Star Trek television series is available on the American version of Netflix, for example, that was never so in Canada.
And as many of you out there have discovered, such streaming apps as Hulu won’t work from a Canadian IP address, causing legions of people to construct workarounds. (And this is despite the wide availability of American channels from Canadian cable/satellite companies and a great number of Canadians living within range of U.S. over-the-air television stations.)
This is even prevalent in the television news industry. The LiveStation website and app, which offer streaming television news services, detect where you’re from and show you channels they’ve been able to license for whatever part of the world you are in. Connecting from the U.S. and want to catch BBC World News? Sorry, no dice.
Every streaming video service currently available is marketed to consumers as something you can use to watch what you want, where you want, when you want.
Except it’s clearly not true.
The only way to do that is to circumvent the system by bending or breaking the law — pretending to be somewhere you are not or partaking in illegal file sharing of copyrighted materials.
Perhaps it’s time for television and movie executives to look to the music industry for inspiration.
Most music for sale on the Internet is free of DRM and mostly available without geographic constraints. Downloads are easy and relatively inexpensive.
If there weren’t enough of us out there who wanted to pay for music, iTunes and the like would have died long ago.
Quite the opposite is true.
The world is clearly ready for a similar arrangement when it comes to television shows and movies.
It’s long past time for entertainment giants to exploit the power of the Internet to reach their TV and film audiences — not to fear it or see it as some kind of nuisance or a threat.