With the ABC losing out on a lot of cash and the hoped third channel (which is still showing up on the digital set-top box), they announced a few weeks back that they’re going ahead with a big digital online project. (Click here to register, looks like it’s still open). They had an option to sign up to their beta, which I thought I would do and not get an invite anyways.
A few days back, It finally came through my inbox.
At the moment, being beta, it’s very limited in what it has to offer. Basically it’s a way to watch shows online through their website. They have three options, catchup, real and shop.
The catchup is basically repeats of shows that have shown already on during the week. At the moment it is offerent Good Game (geek/gaming show), the new inventors (science/invention show), At the Movies (weekly movie reviews by ex-SBS critics), How Art Made the World and The Bill. The most interesting thing about this is the last two options are BBC shows. The BBC have always offered TV shows to our ABC first, and the fact that they have offered permission to replay these shows online is interesting (Dr. Who, anyone?). It means they’re not going to be just Australian content available. I like this a lot. (note, checking today The Bill is now gone. Whether this is a rights issue or they’re swapping the shows around I can’t tell you, but BBC stuff is still available as I write this).
Real, is a documentary section. At the moment it’s only showing some animal documentarys at the moment. This is only new, and hopefully once going online might also incorporate some of the ABC’s current affairs and so forth.
Shop, at the moment is only ads for stuff that is available on ABC DVD. They were talking later on down the track having this section with already available BBC/ABC DVDs for purchase to watch online. I’ll be curious to see how this works, most probably it will be watch only, but can’t tell you much about this side of it until it becomes available.
The graphics setup is very nice. It reminds me of a ipod/mac design setup and is very very easy to navigate. You can click on full Program listing if you want to see the complete options, and add stuff to a playlist so you can watch the next thing straight after. There’s also a cute little clock up the top that keeps the time for you, honestly though I don’t know how necessary it is. When you click on a show, it shows you a small box with the show playing. Thankfully, sound is automatically off in the preview. It can be turned on, however. Once the thing is selected it opens up in full screen, which can also be full window if you want to get rid of your task bar. The only problem I have with fullscreen mode is the fact that the player taskbar takes too long to minimise once the mouse is not moving. The windows media player disappears pretty much instantly, this takes about 10 seconds, which is a little annoying.
The quality is pretty good. Much much better than their VOD service already available, but not TV/digital quality. I still think a bittorrent download is still better, but the download is probably much more. This thing on a 1.5 broadband connection is pretty good. Most shows play without buffering, I had one moment on Good Game, but once I paused it for a few seconds I had no issues after that.
This is a very well setup system and can’t wait to see it go live. It’s about time TV stations start to think digital, I’m glad the ABC are the first to do so. 🙂