TV on Demand: Why television programming is better whenever you want it?

Today, the second season of the highly-regarded BREAKING BAD is available on DVD and Blu-Ray. The pilot episode together with the first episode from season two of this edgy and darkly comic TV hit can be viewed on demand at various locations. Amazon offers the pilot for free.

As a film critic who spends nights at screenings, my opportunities to see the latest offerings on TV are limited. Therefore, utilizing on demand programming and renting television shows to watch when I want to watch them is the way to go. My television show, THE FILM FIX, is available on demand in metro Atlanta. And the technology works—viewers don’t have to be bound by station program schedules. But one of the joys of the on demand system is the chance to sample a wide variety of material that you would otherwise not ever see.

And guilty pleasures abound! On Netflix one Sunday afternoon, I showed my fiancée’s son a couple episodes of KNIGHT RIDER—the original show from 1982. And later, I was able to dial up THE ROCKFORD FILES. One evening after a couple much needed adult beverages, my fiancée, Mags, and I had fun surfing YouTube and I discovered 10 minute episode mash-ups of MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN.

And Mags who lived most of her life in England, has had a grand time sharing British television with me. ALAN PARTRIDGE has to be as funny as the original THE OFFICE, which I’d seen, but only in fits and starts. Being able to take in an entire season of a show on your schedule, whether as a weekend marathon or over a longer period of time, enriches the experience deeply. Television is better when you want it whenever you want it.

These days, I find it difficult to watch any form of regularly scheduled television aside from news broadcasts. But given the advances in Internet streaming, most all the news programming you want is available online. But the online viewer is a much different animal. Used to lower quality video and shorter programs (YouTube mainly only offers 10 minutes per file), these viewers get restless if the show is much longer than 3 to 4 minutes in length. For THE FILM FIX online, I have to cut the show up into smaller Internet segments, and I have to be careful to use movie clips in ways that enhance the viewing of the clip instead of just introduce it. Jeff Marker and I are toying around with different approaches. We’ve even shot our after press screening stuff on a consumer camera, the Kodak Zi8, with a professional microphone rig. But the television version of the FIX is longer, because viewers have proven to be more patient with shows that simply roll movie trailers—see HDNET’s Trailer Park, for example.

The next great hurtle for TV will be to harness the on demand viewer in a way that makes sense for advertisers. I shoot, edit, and direct two shows over on The talk show, Distant Replay, is a long form interview show that has seen a substantial number of views. Audience patience is certainly linked to the type of material. And as more and more folks connect their computers (or PS3s and so forth) to their flat screen televisions, we will see longer programming that is created exclusively for those platforms. And then that programming may later be available on Blu-Ray and DVD! The cycle continues…

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