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WB to allow downloads of classic TV shows

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#1 of 21 OFFLINE   Tony J Case

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Posted November 14 2005 - 06:56 AM

I found this over on the The New York Times and thought this could be a facinating development with TV on DVD.


Looking for "The Fugitive?" Didn't get enough "Eight Is Enough?" Would you like to "Welcome Back, Kotter" one more time?

Warner Brothers is preparing a major new Internet service that will let fans watch full episodes from more than 100 old television series. The service, called In2TV, will be free, supported by advertising, and will start early next year. More than 4,800 episodes will be made available online in the first year.

The move will give Warner a way to reap new advertising revenue from a huge trove of old programming that is not widely syndicated.

Programs on In2TV will have one to two minutes of commercials for each half-hour episode, compared with eight minutes in a standard broadcast. The Internet commercials cannot be skipped.

America Online, which is making a broad push into Internet video, will distribute the service on its Web portal. Both it and Warner Brothers are Time Warner units. An enhanced version of the service will use peer-to-peer file-sharing technology to get the video data to viewers.

Warner, with 800 television programs in its library, says it is the largest TV syndicator. It wants to use the Internet to reach viewers rather than depend on the whims of cable networks and local TV stations, said Eric Frankel, the president of Warner Brothers' domestic cable distribution division.

"We looked at the rise of broadband on Internet and said, 'Let's try to be the first to create a network that opens a new window of distribution for us rather than having to go hat in hand to a USA or a Nick at Night or a TBS,' " Mr. Frankel said.

Warner's offering comes at a time when television producers and networks are exploring new ways to use digital technology to distribute programs.

Many of the recent moves include charging viewers for current programs. ABC has started selling episodes of some programs to download to Apple iPods for $1.99. And NBC and CBS announced last week that they would sell reruns of their top new shows for 99 cents an episode through video-on-demand services. CBS is working with Comcast and NBC with DirecTV.

(The CBS programs to be sold on Comcast include commercials, but viewers can skip them. The NBC programs on DirecTV and the ABC programs from Apple have no commercials.)

Of the media companies' new experiments, Peter Storck, president of the Points North Group, a research firm, remarked, "They are saying let's take the plunge, put the content out there, and figure out how to monetize it." Programs on In2TV will range from recently canceled series like "La Femme Nikita" to vintage shows like "Maverick" from the early 1960's . Other series that will be available include "Chico and the Man," "Wonder Woman" and "Babylon 5."

The company will offer a changing selection of several hundred episodes each month, rather than providing continuous access to all the episodes in a series, Mr. Frankel said, so as not to cannibalize potential DVD sales of old TV shows.

And in the future, when Warner negotiates with cable networks to syndicate popular programs, Mr. Frankel said, the price will be higher if the network wants it kept off the Internet.

For AOL, the In2TV deal is part of a broad strategy to create a range of video offerings to attract people to its free AOL.com portal. It already offers some video news and sports programs from CBS News, ABC and CNN.

At the same time, it is creating programming aimed at women and young people, including an online reality series called "The Biz," giving contestants the chance to become a music producer, in conjunction with the Warner Music Group (which is no longer owned by Time Warner).

Next month AOL will introduce TMZ, an entertainment news service, in a joint venture with another Warner Brothers division, Telepictures Productions. TMZ, named for the 30-mile zone around Hollywood that is mentioned in some film-union contracts, will mix breaking entertainment news and gossip with a database of information and video about celebrities. It will be run by Harvey Levin, former executive producer of " Celebrity Justice," a syndicated program about the legal woes of entertainment figures, which Telepictures canceled last spring.

TMZ and most of AOL's programming effort, so far, have been built largely around short video segments, reflecting the conventional view that Internet users are less likely to want to watch full-length programs on a computer screen.

Yet a recent survey by the Points North Group of 1,098 Internet users found that 28 percent said they wanted to watch regular television shows on their PC's or laptops, Mr. Storck said.

Full-length TV shows on the In2TV service responds to that demand, particularly as more people hook their computers up to their television sets.

AOL will offer a version of the service meant to be watched on a television set connected to a Windows Media Center PC, and it is exploring a similar arrangement to link the Internet programming to television through TiVo video recorders.

For those who want to watch on a big screen, AOL is introducing optional technology that it says will produce a DVD-quality picture. Even with a broadband connection, most Internet video looks grainy at full width on a computer monitor, let alone a big TV set. The new option, called AOL Hi-Q, will require the downloading once of special software, and the program may not start for several minutes, depending on the speed of the users' connection.

There is a catch. To use the technology, viewers will have to agree to participate in a special file-sharing network. This approach helps AOL reduce the cost of distributing-high quality video files by passing portions of the video files from one user's computer to another. AOL says that since it will control the network, it can protect users from the sorts of viruses and spyware that infect other peer-to-peer systems.

AOL is using file-sharing technology from Kontiki, a Silicon Valley company providing a similar system to the ambitious Internet video program of the BBC.

Warner is also adding shorter segments and interactive features for users who do not want to watch entire episodes. Each month, there will be a series of one- or two-minute excerpts drawn from the full-length episodes, featuring funny scenes or segments showing famous actors when they played bit parts on TV. (Brad Pitt, for one, had a small role on "Growing Pains" in 1987.) These excerpts can be sent to friends by e-mail or instant message, and will eventually be offered on mobile phones.

Other programs will be accompanied by interactive features that can be displayed side by side with the video, like trivia quizzes and video games related to the shows. One feature, to accompany "Welcome Back, Kotter," will allow users to upload a picture of themselves (or a friend) and superimpose 1970's hair styles and fashion, and send the pictures by e-mail to friends or use as icons on AOL's instant-message system.

"This is great goofy stuff that fans are going to love," Mr. Storck of the Points North Group said.


Actually this is a pretty slick move on WB's part. I imagine it wont be long before we'll get a link at the end of the episodes saying "To see the rest of this show, click here to order the full boxed set."

Get someone hooked on the first 10 or 15 episodes, and charge them for the latter half in a boxed set. A time honored tradition - the drug dealers have been doing this for ages!

Heck, I bet that some of the commercials are to buy the boxed set for the episodes being viewed.

#2 of 21 OFFLINE   Greg_S_H


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Posted November 14 2005 - 08:14 AM

Get someone hooked on the first 10 or 15 episodes, and charge them for the latter half in a boxed set. A time honored tradition - the drug dealers have been doing this for ages!

It does work. I recently saw the first couple of Veronica Mars episodes online, and I'll be buying the season set soon. As for the subject at hand, I like the free part. As long as I can watch these full screen and not in some crappy postage stamp streaming window, I'll definitely be on board. I've blind bought season sets in the past, but it would sure be nice to be able to check out some episodes before making a commitment.

#3 of 21 OFFLINE   FrancisP



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Posted November 14 2005 - 10:10 AM

Dozens of old television shows including "Welcome Back Kotter" will be available online and free-of-charge under a deal between America Online Inc. and Warner Bros., the companies announced.

In the latest alternative to traditional TV viewing, a new broadband network, called In2TV, will be launched in early 2006 by AOL and Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution, the companies said Monday.

Besides the TV shows, In2TV will include games, polls and other interactive features.

"Welcome Back Kotter," "Sisters" and "Growing Pains" are among the 30 series to be offered initially. They will be grouped on channels by genre, including comedy, drama, animation, sci-fi and horror, action-adventure and "vintage TV."

In2TV plans to offer more than 100 TV series and at least 300 episodes per month in the first year, the companies said.

The shows will be delivered through AOL Video on Demand, AOL Video Search and AOL Television. At the time of launch, the programs will be available exclusively on AOL and will not be in syndication on TV, AOL official said.

This is the Forbes.com story. What I found interesting was the quote that the programs will not be in syndication. I suspect this means that the shows will be shows that are not widely syndicated. They would make much more on a widely syndicated show than they would on this venture.

#4 of 21 OFFLINE   WillLon



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Posted November 14 2005 - 10:51 AM

This is good news indeed. I hope Viacom/Paramount follows suit.

I only have 3 Warner Bros. TV series on my "DVD wish list":
Max Headroom (1987) 14 episodes + original UK pilot [DVD Holy Grail!]
Rafferty (1977) Pilot movie + 12 episodes [Patrick McGoohan]
The George Carlin Show (1994-5) 27 episodes


#5 of 21 OFFLINE   Tony J Case

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Posted November 14 2005 - 11:10 AM

I hope Viacom/Paramount follows suit.

If this launches and is sucessful, I predict we'll see the other studios jump onboard pretty quick. As it is, WB is the second network to set this in motion. The BBC has been working on streaming broadcasts and reruns for about a year now.

#6 of 21 OFFLINE   Jesse Skeen

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Posted November 14 2005 - 12:22 PM

I like this idea, but I'd rather watch it on my big TV than on a computer screen. They should have it so you can legally put them on a DVD- I don't have a player that can do Divx files.

The holy grail for me would be to have all the old shows as originally broadcast, including vintage commercials and show promos! If they were available that way I would buy or download EVERYTHING! (Of course anything made today is another story, as TV has now become completely unwatchable so I'd want to see those shows with all the crap removed.)
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#7 of 21 OFFLINE   John*D


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Posted November 14 2005 - 12:27 PM

This could possibly be a good way to gauge interest in possible DVD releases of older titles.

A burning option for a fee would probably be a good idea. Although I'm sure others will find a free way.

#8 of 21 OFFLINE   Scott_J



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Posted November 14 2005 - 05:43 PM

WB's not allowing downloads of the show. They're going to be streaming the videos, using the latest technology to prevent downloading the videos, according an article I read earlier tonight. Here's a quote from an LA Times article that you may find interesting:
Three paralegals working full-time for the last year have managed to clear 300 of the studio's 800 television series. For the next round, executives need to decide whether to pony up more money to rights holders or, in some cases, to replace the licensed music with new songs.
IOW, look for music replacement on some of the series.


#9 of 21 OFFLINE   Ben King

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Posted November 14 2005 - 10:05 PM

This could possibly be a good way to gauge interest in possible DVD releases of older titles.

Agreed. I see Falcon Crest is on the list of forthcoming shows - hope it proves that a full DVD release is a viable option.

#10 of 21 OFFLINE   Chris Bardon

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Posted November 15 2005 - 03:17 AM

This is really an excellent idea, but I'm definitely taking a "wait and see" stance on this one. I have a feeling that there'll be issues with the quality, or some invasive DRM (similar to the Sony rootkit) that will hamstring the service, and give the impression that nobody wants TV offered online. It's also encouraging to see a high profile, legit use of p2p technology.
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#11 of 21 OFFLINE   FrancisP



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Posted November 15 2005 - 06:41 AM

I'm don't necessarily think that this would be a fair sample. I don't believe that people want to sit in front of a 15-19 inch computer monitor to watch a tv show. How many
people choose to download music vs listening online? I do use my laptop when I am away from home but I would never use my laptop to watch movies at home.

It seems that delivering season sets or individual sets would be the way to go on series that may have a small but dedicated audience. I do have to agree that there are assurances that we are not downloading onerous copy protection software.

#12 of 21 OFFLINE   Eddy-C


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Posted November 15 2005 - 07:28 AM

"I don't believe that people want to sit in front of a 15-19 inch computer monitor to watch a tv show."

It worked for the video ipod and thats even smaller
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#13 of 21 OFFLINE   FrancisP



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Posted November 15 2005 - 09:42 AM

It worked for the video ipod and thats even smaller

That is a convenience issue. If I was not at home then I might watch them. Also what is on the video ipod will be downloaded and commercial free. It can also be watched as many times as you want.

#14 of 21 OFFLINE   Martin_C


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Posted November 15 2005 - 09:49 AM

That sounds really great in theory, but I imagine that there will be loads of restrictions when the time comes.

#15 of 21 OFFLINE   Michael Alden

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Posted November 15 2005 - 11:30 AM

Without the ability to download the shows, my interest level is nill. Combined with the fact that of the 800 shows they claim to own, the ones I would want are probably on the list between numbers 780 and 800 to be run. Not to mention the fact that the more obscure the show, the less likely it's even been put on tape yet.

#16 of 21 OFFLINE   Gord Lacey

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Posted November 15 2005 - 02:05 PM

I doubt this is something that will interest many of the people here. We're here because we love DVDs. We love having things on our bookcases; we love the special features, and we love being able to watch what we want, when we want to. Streaming episodes on the computer is interesting, but it's not going to change my DVD watching habits.

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#17 of 21 OFFLINE   Amy Mormino

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Posted November 15 2005 - 10:48 PM

This at least shows that the potential for future downloading of particular episodes via the computer definitely exists. I know that there have been a few threads on this subject in the past (I even introduced one). If the studios see that a potential exists for streaming episodes, downloading is only a matter of time, though the shows available will unfortunately be more limited. The future is here (almost)!

#18 of 21 OFFLINE   MatthewA



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Posted November 16 2005 - 01:25 AM

I'm afraid I must agree with Michael Alden; until you can own a physical copy of the episodes, I'll pass.

Enough is enough, Disney. No more evasions or excuses. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray along with the uncut version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray. I will not support anything your company produces until then.

#19 of 21 OFFLINE   Garysb



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Posted November 16 2005 - 04:38 AM

I for one look forward to seeing more of Maverick other then the 3 shows on the recent sampler DVD.

#20 of 21 OFFLINE   John Carr

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Posted November 16 2005 - 07:10 AM

I'm with Gord, 100%. I like to own my favorite shows so I can watch them when I want and on my big screen TV, too! Likewise, I enjoy collecting the boxes, artwork and DVDS.

I just hope video-streaming doesn't become the exclusive way to move niche TV shows so the studios don't have to release them on DVD.

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