TV on the internet v. TV on TV

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I sat down in front of my TV last night to -amazingly enough- watch some TV. Most of the time, I use the TV for watching movies or playing games. I get most of my TV from the internet. The CBC normally gets my viewership by posting episodes on their website. This, I think, works better for everyone. What's so good about it? The CBC gets a more precise impression of where their viewers are coming from. When I pluck waves out of the air with an antenna, the CBC has no idea that I'm watching. On the other hand, when I click through to the jPod website, for example, it is quite clear that I'm watching. There's a useful corollary to that, too. CBC can more precisely tell their advertisers how many people are viewing, and who those people are. That's quite good. Clearly, the CBC benefits from me watching TV on the internet. What, then, do I gain? I gain flexibility and self determination. I gain the ability to watch shows when I want to, instead of when the CBC chooses to air them. That's useful if I'm not home when the show first airs. I'm much less likely to follow a show if I have to drop everything to watch it. The other major gain is that the show doesn't get interrupted by advertisements. I'd much rather view banner ads on the side or top of a website than ads in the middle of a show.

If TV on the internet is so good, why am I even framing this as a competition? TV is, at this point, still better than TV on the internet in some respects. For one, if I were to watch jPod on the CBC website, the resolution would be far worse than the TV version. Not only that, but the episode would stream, and streaming is inherently jumpy. Also, if I happened to be home on a Tuesday night, it would make far more sense to watch the broadcast, since episodes aren't uploaded until after the show has aired. Problematic. But not just problematic for the viewer. Even though the CBC benefits in many ways from making shows available on their website, there's still a major problem: the cost of bandwidth. Streaming a 45 minute long show takes bandwidth. Bandwidth costs money. They now pay not only to broadcast the show on TV, but also to stream it on demand on their website.

Some questions, then, about the good and bad of TV on the internet. Would I rather watch a low res, slightly jumpy version of a show, or have the story constantly interrupted by advertisements? Why, if the CBC is willing to make shows available online, do they not choose a better distribution method? Would it be so wrong to set up a CBC sanctioned torrent? Such a solution might cut bandwidth costs for the CBC, and it would certainly give viewers a better viewing experience. At the same time, would regular viewers be willing to spend time waiting for a show to download, in exchange for better picture quality? Do regular viewers even bother to watch TV on the internet?

If I value flexibility and self determination in my TV viewing, why did I sit down last night and watch TV on TV? Simply, I was home, I had nothing to do, I wanted something lazy to occupy my evening with. So I turned on the TV. I find, though, that the more committed I am to a show, the more I end up watching it on the internet. Broadcast TV, on the other hand, is admirably suited to casual viewing. Plus, commercial breaks are a great time to go and get a fresh cup of tea.

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