Archive for May, 2006

ABC Launces Full Episode Streaming

On Monday, ABC launched an ambitious experiment – full length episodes of prime-time TV shows, streamed on the web in Flash Video format.

While this is billed as a two month experiment, it’s hard not to be excited about what this means for the future of online video.

I’ve aggregated a bunch of public feedback on the ABC project, mostly from blogs. Click on the extended entry details for the quotes.

A large number of positive remarks were directed towards ABC, for creating a clean, user friendly experience and not towards the underlying Flash technology – and that’s a good thing. Flash has a tremendous amount of credibility around being a technology that “just works”, and to extend that ability into the notoriously non-working world of streaming video is a great achievement.

The tech savvy crowd was impressed at the quality of the audio and video, and that it worked on browsers/platforms that are traditionally ignored by “Big Media”. The non-techie crowd made several mentions of video that “didn’t need a player” or things to that effect. The transparent platform of Flash video, the message of “you own your brand” is really shining here. In fact, that Flash technology is barely even noticed many viewers spoke volumes to the quality of experience that Flash Video and FMS provides. Even the tough-to-please Slashdot, Digg, and Metafilter crowds were very receptive – again the general theme was a mix of “ABC gets it” and “that’s good quality video – and it works on my Mac!”.

Somewhat surprisingly, given this crowd, the highly interactive Flash ad units that combined audio, video, text, forms, and PDF download received a generally positive response. Again, the attitude of “we don’t mind ads – just don’t insult us with dumb ones”.


“When I heard ABC was going to offer a way to watch their shows online, I was fully expecting it to suck clowns. I figured it would be something sucky like DRM’d wmv streams or real media streams. I am happy to say that they chose Flash Video.

I can’t say enough good things about ABC’s new service. The ui is sexy, the code is optimized, they use new flash 8 features, the backbone is Flash media server, all in all it is the best implementation of flash video i’ve seen in a long time.”

ABC gets Flash video right

Finally someone has taken our advice and started displaying premium content via Flash video with embedded ads. As I have said in this space before, content providers need only create Flash based video content to distribute their stuff to viewers and then they can grab the largest online viewing audience of any video app. Larger than Windows Media Player, larger than Quicktime, larger than all other video types.

“whatever video format ABC decided to go with works seamlessly in Safari, so the majority of people viewing wouldn’t have much of a problem, I imagine.”

“Initial take: It doesn’t look or feel like an experiment.”

“I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it works. The video streaming is done entirely inside a browser window, with apparently no special video player required. There were no pauses or other signs of lag in the video. The sound quality and picture quality were both quite good.”

“This is perhaps the nicest looking Flash video I’ve ever seen. Not only are the video dimensions nice and large, but the picture is extremely clear and not choppy at all. You can tell a lot of work went into the encoding and delivery process. It’s also interesting to note that this is 400k and 700k Flash streaming and not progressive download. Progressive download has been a lot more common than streaming in the past and it’s nice to see such a great example of true broadband Flash streaming in action.”

“I predict that ABC’s streaming offering is going to be one of the hotest video sites for UMPCs this year. I just checked it out on my Toshiba M400. The video is wonderful. It’s brighter and clearer than that from my Slingbox. “

Today saw the launch of ABC’s Full Episode Streaming and along with it a glimpse of how Flash is going to rock the future of the internet. For a long time “video on the web” has been the next big thing, but it wasn’t until Flash came along and showed how easy it could be that people really started taking notice. Flash allowed content providers a way to easily stream high quality video across any platform and nearly any device. Once people realized how powerful this tool was, it was just a matter of time before the big companies picked up on it.

from comments

“Wow. Smooth, fast, works on OSX, little to complain about.
Beats Google video by a mile. Well done.
This is hands down the best no-direct-cost online video experience to date.”

many positive comments:

“Now THIS is the future. Watch the hell out cable!”

“i am in agreement with all of these people. when i first heard about the service i imagined a small window like we get on places like Launch Music Videos but no, they actually give us 2 sizes and the “high def” size is actually very nice. next step is adding streaming 5.1 audio and full-screen video. but all-in-all, MAJOR thumbs up ABC!”

“I think I’m gonna try this out .. You guys can wait 2 days for bittorrent to download just so you can watch it on the big screen in your mom’s basement.”

“if anyone from abc is reading this. best free streamplayer out rigtht [sic] now.”

Bravo ABC! At last a TV network listens to the consumers!”

“I know you could pirate the episodes, but it takes hours to download them. I clicked on ‘alias’ and it was ready to play in about 5 seconds. Almost no lag if you
pause and then play again, as well; at least in comparison to streaming real player/ windows media things where you have to wait for it to ‘buffer’

“Good God..It is Mac compatible. Thank you ABC for being one of the few major streaming companies that is Mac compatible. This service is amazing.”

many comments focused on the ethics of advertising, and other such navel gazing. However, even among the non-believers, positive comments on the experience.

“I’m impressed, I imagined something much less flexible than their current offering … The video quality is fairly good also, definitely better than iTunes

Well, come Thursday, I’ll be giving this a shot for Lost. I don’t think it’s too much to be asked to watch a few ads to see a TV show.”

“take it from someone who has spent some time fiddling with web video and streaming technologies … I have seen the future and it *is* Flash

There simply isn’t another cross-platform, browser-based, video delivery platform that provides this level of user experience or quality in one complete package. And the 16:9 videos look outstanding (I’m sure this will be the first time some non-HDTV owners will see their favorite ABC shows in this format).”

“Interestingly, the entire world is expecting ABC’s parent Disney to emerge as a leader in digital video after its acquisition of Pixar brings Steve Jobs on board.  In fact, many people expected Steve Jobs to start throwing around his weight at Disney.  The decision then to favor flash video instead of Apple’s AVI does suggest that Flash is onto something.”

Overall, I’m impressed by how ABC has executed this initiative. It seems for now that they’ve solved the technical issues from yesterday’s barrage of visitors (at least until LOST airs on Wednesday) and the streaming is good quality with intuitive controls.”

Overall, I think the service looks promising. The interface makes it very easy to switch between shows, the video quality is really good and the price is just right. There is just no way I am going to shell out $2 to watch something on my iPod.

from comments….

“Totally impressed with the quality! Even glad it sits on a black screen. They really could have flubbed this with animated banner ads all over, but they did it right.”

I’m very impressed with the quality and speed of this. And the commercials aren’t that bad. I like that it gives you a countdown til when the show is back on. I was watching last weeks Alias. Good stuff, ABC. And gotta love that it works on the Mac and makes great use of Flash video.”

“Thanks ABC for giving consumers a choice in how they get their favorite shows!”