People look at me funny when I say this, but I don't like torrenting TV shows or movies. I want to pay money for this entertainment that cost a fortune to make. I want to show appreciation for the hard work and genuine achievement - I certainly couldn't make a TV show, never mind a good one. I'm fed up with the sense of entitlement to free stuff that the web seems to have given people. If something is worth watching, listening to, or using, it's worth paying for. The alternative is either an overload of advertising, the sale of your personal data, or, ultimately, the industry going bust.
But damn its frustrating. I have several methods to watch TV, and they seem to increase all the time. I can watch TV, and have unknown amounts of channels available, most of which seem to show re-runs of Top Gear, 90's game shows and Midsomer Murders. I can record TV on my Sky+, or I can watch what has been recorded for me on BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, and so on. I buy DVDs. I can rent DVDs, though I haven't bothered in a long time. I even pay a monthly subscription to Netflix to watch their shows and movies on seemingly every Internet enabled device under the sun. If my fridge had a Wi-Fi connection it would probably have Netflix.
But every single one of these has the most irritating problems:
- TV channels, in spite of the amount of money I pay on a TV licence and Sky subscription, have adverts constantly. Recording allows me to fast forward through the commercials but this is still a) an interruption and b) a hassle, as I always make a mess of the timing and have to rewind through the first minute of this part of the show.
- On demand TV from networks is improving, but has a long way to go to be useful to everybody. Connected to my TV is a Sky+ HD box, a Blu-Ray player, an Apple TV, a Wii, and an Xbox 360. None of which currently support BBC iPlayer, except the Wii in which the picture quality is so poor I might as well be scribbling along to the audio. I can use my laptop, but I don't want to because I like sitting on my couch watching the big screen. Having to connect my laptop to my TV is another irritation that I shouldn't need.
- Netflix is good, especially on the Apple TV, but the delay in getting new movies is crazy, and the breadth of its selection is ridiculously limited compared to torrents, the closest comparison, through which EVERYTHING is IMMEDIATELY available. It also eats up my bandwidth allowance from BT. (They give me fibre-optic broadband at 40Mbps then insert a 40GB download limit. This problem also applies to iPlayer, 4OD etc.)
And then we get to DVDs and Blu-Rays, my preferred option as they have a better picture quality, won't pause to buffer, are conveniently arranged into chapters, provide special features, and don't eat up Internet bandwidth. Now that piracy is so easy, they are actually forced to be a decent price too, as long as you wait a few weeks after release. However, DVDs still deserve a demerit list all of their own:
- They take a long time to load (especially Blu-Rays). The time from when I press the "open" button on the player to when I can actually watch my movie is ridiculous.
- They contain a lot of adverts for things I invariably have no interest in watching. These can only be useful at the time of release, to promote movies or shows that I haven't yet heard of (though I have because I go to movies, watch regular TV, and use the Internet), but after that they are just reminders of what was released around the time this DVD appeared. These adverts aren't impossible to skip, but you have to jump past each commercial instead of being able to just go straight to the disc menu.
- They contain irritating sections about piracy. After realising that the lecture about how "stealing is wrong" was idiotic because they were preaching to the choir, we are now congratulated by the DVD maker for succeeding in not being a thief. Its patronising, pointless because we don't care what the faceless executives at 20th Century Fox think of us, and another waste of viewing time.
- The designers of DVD menus are morons. When I have a disc containing 8 episodes of a show, I want to know what those episodes are. This means a title and a brief (with no spoilers) synopsis, as opposed to a list of episode numbers. This isn't difficult. Also, I don't watch a DVD for the clever menu animations ("In The Loop") or to see half the movie at the main menu ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2").
What I want from a DVD is simple: to be shown a menu with the various options available (Play All, Episode Selection, Special Features etc.), as soon as the hardware is physically capable of presenting it to me. I then want to watch the content that I have chosen, and in fact paid good money, to watch, with no interruptions, no delays, and no spoilers.
Even more simply, what I want is a system with the following three steps. 1) I decide I want to watch something. 2) I turn on my single system for watching videos. 3) I watch my chosen video.
How hard can it be?
(See also: The Oatmeal)