almost brilliant

driving home from work, I was so psyched to check out this web-base mini-series that they had talked about on NPR…

concept: Neil Patrick Harris as an evil genius, rejected from the Evil League of Evil, in love with a girl from the laundrymat, with a predisposition to breaking into song.  what could possibly go wrong?

before I get to that, more backstory.  during the writer’s strike last year, some tv/movie writer (I know, he’s a big shot and I could easily look it up, but this is a rant and not a piece of journalism) conceives of a web-based mini-series, supposedly to prove some kind of point about the crux of the writer’s-strike issue.  the core issue there was how writer’s would be compensated for TV work that was re-broadcast over the Internet.  really, that’s what they were fighting for — that’s what kept me from new episodes of The Office for what seemed like forever.  so he would make the mini-series semi-professionally but on-the-cheap, and broadcast it over the Internet, and prove… something.

k, but here’s the catch — I can’t watch the episodes.  and it’s not just me, here’s a list of people (scroll down to the Responses) who can’t watch it over the net.  there is a one-week free period (started 7/15) before it moves to i-Tunes only; then there will be a DVD release.  but all these people can’t view the free release.  apparently some people need to disable their firewalls in order to watch the video — some even had to disable the firewall on their Wi-Fi/Broadband routers… hardly a reasonable expectation.

when I go to Act I, I’m told “The video is not available at this site.”  the FAQ says some people have better luck when using Internet Explorer… great news for people who use Linux or Mac/OS X.  no, I’m not going to install Windows in order to watch this.  and yes, yes, there are plenty of good video web sites that work with Linux/Firefox.

some people said, ‘fine, I’ll pay the $4 on i-Tunes’ ($1.99 per episode or $4 for a ‘seasons pass’), but they can’t get the video outside of US/Canada.  did anyone tell them that the Internet tends to be somewhat global?  somehow the incompatibilities, the proprietary video format/site that only works if you disable firewalls, the i-Tunes tie-in — they all seem to fly in the face of the supposed “I’m going to skirt around the media establishment” motivation of the series creator.  instead of proving a point to the networks and studios that there are other viable options, they seem to be proving the opposite — web-distribution is plagued with problems.  I’d be better off if this was on TV; there’s no guesswork as to whether I’m going to be able to watch a show on NBC or AMC or SHOwtime (yes, yes, no).

so I turned to [uh] secondary markets (youtube and torrents) to see if I could view a copy of Acts I and II, but to no avail.

I understand, in a business-school kind of way, why they are going through hoops to lock down the video.  if it’s on YouTube, people can save it or re-share it and a big part of their business model seems to be the i-Tunes and DVD sales.  ok, I get it — if DVD-quality versions get shared now, you won’t get DVD sales later.  but here’s the thing — they won’t get DVD sales later if it doesn’t get big enough hype now.  it reminds me of BMW’s “The Hire” series years ago — their videos were online (ie, Ambush, The Follow), and they were great, and I was probably one of the first to get them on DVD because I knew on a big TV with big sound they would be even better*.  if I had never seen the online videos, I wouldn’t have bothered with the DVD.

and you won’t get DVD sales later if the steps you’ve taken upfront only frustrate a significant chunk of your market.

I imagine this is similar — who is going to buy the Doctor Horrible DVD without having first seen the video online?  how many more would possibly buy the DVD if they see the video online, through video services that work like YouTube, or streaming it from their own site (or partnering with Akamai or similar).  even if the video got loose on the torrents, I bet they’d net more DVD sales.

it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  here’s my solution, and it’s not rocket science:  release a low-quality version on all available channels — youtube, torrents, whatever.  the video and audio quality should only be as good as is necessary to get the plot across.  anyone who wants to see it in glorious HD can get it on i-Tunes or the proprietary/DRM‘d web site or DVD.  nobody is going to bother pirating/selling a crappy 640×480 version of the series, or more accurately, nobody is going to bother buying a crappy 640×480 version.  but people who see the low-res version might be compelled to buy a better-resolution version.

long story short (too late): was psyched, now very disillusioned.  prognosis: wait until the DVD’s are released, then I’ll be able to find it online.  and no, the producers will not get a dime.

* also, I’ve had an obsession with BMWs since before I could drive.



Filed under dumbfounded, rant

6 responses to “almost brilliant

  1. Josh

    I had the same issue using firefox, but got it to work using Safari. It may be a bug in the current version of firefox?

  2. Josh

    This is actually a problem with browser settings, not a bug in firefox. The fix (for firefox) is:

    Type “about:config” without the quotes into one of your firefox browser window location bars and press enter.

    A long list should appear with a “filter” box at the top. In that box, type “referer”

    The long list should now be reduced to one entry, which is called “network.http.sendRefererHeader”

    If you are having this problem, the value for that line is probably 0 or 1. It needs to be set to 2 to allow referers for links AND embedded content (1 is for links only, 0 is no referers at all).

    Double-click the line and type “2″ (without the quotes) into the text box that pops up.

    Go back to and it should work!

  3. Hmm… I have not had any issues watching with Firefox. Is it because I run FF on Windows?

    Incidentally, I have seen the thing three times and it is cute.

  4. Josh’s fix (above, setting network.http.sendRefererHeader = 2) worked.

    unfortunately, this is a something I specifically set to 0 (zero) for security/privacy reasons.

    once I watch all three episodes, it’s going back to zero.

  5. I still contend their video implementation is broken. from what I can tell, forcing the referrer information means you can only watch the video if you get to it via the specific page for that episode — so it doesn’t let you embed the video in other pages.

    that was probably their goal. not very collaborative; flies in the face of the direction everyone else on the net is going, where everyone encourages each other to embed their content, mash-up, whatever.

    also probably prevents software that downloads videos from youtube (etc) to download this to your hard drive, which also prevents sharing on P2P — which preserves their business model (selling DVDs later).

    again, almost brilliant. but for anyone with any talent (ie. not me), it’s probably trivial to get around, and copies will be floating around the net willy-nilly despite their efforts. but at least they tried.

  6. Pingback: ok… Brilliant « name your fear

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