Watching Shows on Computers Supplements Your TV Viewing

    by Mark Glaser
    August 28, 2006

    i-f301a14721d6a02b4f8d5bc7ea77629d-Stargate SG-1.JPG
    Let’s be clear about one thing. Watching TV shows and movies on computer screens — as they exist today — will not replace watching TV and movies on much bigger screens, in much more comfortable environs. Of course there are computers that can function as TV sets, and TV sets that can do some computer functions, but we haven’t found nirvana yet, at least on a mass-quantity affordable basis.

    So what we are dealing with is an interim situation, where people can and do buy TV shows to watch on their computers, or watch streaming video clips on computers with advertising. But this TV-on-computer habit is far from replacing the status quo, and for the foreseeable future, the viewing public will largely be content to watch TV shows on a TV.

    Your responses to my question — “What TV shows would you watch on your computer?” — proved that point, because no one said or implied that TV-on-computer watching was the only way they watch TV. Instead, you liked to watch more niche content on your computer, or video clips or old shows you couldn’t find on TV. A good friend of mine was addicted to watching major league baseball games on his laptop, despite the poor quality, due to the pure control he had in seeing the Chicago Cubs play their games, which rarely were televised in San Francisco.


    Mike Dunn, vice president of interactive media for Hearst Corp., is probably a bit ahead of the curve for the average tech user. But what Dunn watches on his laptop — “Stargate SG-1” — is the perfect example of niche content that works on a computer.

    “I use Tivo-to-Go to put ‘Stargate SG-1’ onto my laptop so I can watch them on my daily train commute or frequent plane trips to one of our [Hearst media] properties,” Dunn wrote. “I’m the only one in my household who likes the show, so it’s the best way for me to get my fix. I also use a Slingbox to watch TiVo or live TV on my laptop when I’m on the road.”

    Michael Bartley mentioned HBO’s “Deadwood” series as one to watch on a computer, while Stan Wexler said he preferred watching sports such as tennis and baseball. Others liked the idea of watching video clips — as long as there wasn’t a charge.


    “When I am at work, I may watch clips on my computer from the cable stations, but I’m not going to pay cable/Internet fees to watch something I can already watch on my TV for free,” wrote Rottenbucher. “I’ll endure ads [rather] than shell out $100+ a month.”

    Lara Beth said she watches “The Today Show” as well as other media clips on a computer. “If the television should become obsolete, I wouldn’t miss it,” she wrote.

    And for nostalgia lovers, nothing beats the Internet for finding some old TV gems. AOL has started showing old shows, and you can find shorter clips of classic TV on YouTube as well.

    “Given the Net is a great archive and distribution mechanism, I would like to watch old classics, like ‘The Honeymooners,’ ‘Sargeant Bilko’ and ‘The Odd Couple,’” wrote Ged Carroll. “Situation comedies like this suit digital compression because the frames don’t change all that much since there is not that much dramatic movement.”

    Just like with video content on iPods and cell phones, what you watch on a computer monitor is situational. The screen size might be smaller than a TV set, and the video quality might be lower quality, but if you’re stuck in an airport or in a foreign city without your favorite shows, having TV-on-computer might be perfect for your situation.

    What other TV shows or video content do you like to watch on computer monitors? Or tell us why you don’t like watching TV on your computer if that’s the case.

    UPDATE: The good folks at Lost Remote have linked to this post, and their readers have weighed in on the question about watching shows on computers. One good point some of them make is that they spend so much time at work, that they end up watching TV shows there on their computer — even if they have the same shows recorded on their home DVR. One comment I liked came from Todd Thorpe:

    After work the other night I sat down on the couch with laptop in hand and watched a whole evening’s worth of Top Gear clips from YouTube and other video sharing sites. I work in television, it’s my life. I never turned the TV on once. I didn’t miss it…

    Wow, if folks in the TV business are turning off TVs in favor of laptops, then change really is afoot.

    Tagged: computers film tv
    • Isn’t there a visual effect going on here regarding the size of the screen?

      When you are watching TV from your couch the TV screen takes up a certain amout of your field of vision. Let’s say 1/9th for conversation.

      When you are watching a video on a laptop, which is maybe on your lap or a tray table, what percentage of your field of vision is that video? Maybe 1/6th?

      So in this example, the video is bigger. And if it’s something like Apple’s H.264, it’s really high quality.

      I watched some of the preview episodes of new TV shows that were available on iTunes. Kyle XY and Studio 60 on Sunset Strip. I now Tivo Kyle and will Tivo Studio 60.

      One other thing that needs mentioning is that in addition to watching TV content on computers, I’m also watching videoblogs. I subscribe to people. When I watch a videoblog, I have the opportunity to click a link and leave a comment, like I’m doing here. Some vlogs even promote collaboration, like Ze Frank and Galacticast. They solicit feedback in the form of mutimedia. While a small percentage of viewers will participate, it points to a future where media is two way communication rather than one way.

      YouTube is breaking ground in this area with video comments. Lots of conversation is happening over there in both video and text. It’s exciting.

    • I watch Diggnation religiously. It’s a video podcast on my iPod, which I plug directly into the front of my TV set.

      Other than the Daily Show, which I watch on ReplayTV, Diggnation is my most-watched show.

      And as chance would have it, it’s higher-rated (fuzzy math, I admit) than many cable TV shows.

    • wait a few more weeks

    • You’re right . . . but what we are learning is . . .

      1. The model of 30 – 60 minute shows are evolving to 1 – 10 minute online videos.

      2. YouTube and others are becoming the model for searching video and what video on demand will ultimately be like.

    • Its clear that viewers are moving to new forms of video presentation over the net. I’m still generally unimpressed with the quality and especially structural design of most videos and programs being made available on the net.

      I’m not specifically talking about the quality of the subject matter even though who can take much of a 16 year old girl lamenting the lack of fun in her life that seems to be prevelent on YouTube.

      I’m talking about a design in how Internet and mobile video needs to be approached. On traditional TV, we’ve had the 30 and 60minute paradigm. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the best for internet or mobile presentation. Where is the innovation in non-linear serials versus the Cool I just a video now what do I do problem with most content I see on the net.

      I foresee the real revolution coming in how we recreate the entire paradigm for the serialized program in shorter chunks of connected non-linear segments.

    • i think this really sucks. you all show should not even be put on the air, that is how bad the show is. It sucks like a bitch.

    • micheal

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    • Hello,

      Love your article. Thanks for writing this.


      PS. I just wrote one as well here How To Get TV On Your Computer

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