Tag Archives: Online

Winter Comes Early: Access, Game of Thrones and HBO Go

Winter Comes Early: Access and HBO Go

May 22nd, 2011

When HBO announced that they would be premiering the seventh episode of Game of Thrones‘ first season on HBO Go immediately following the conclusion of episode six, I was more fascinated than excited.

I think HBO Go is a really interesting initiative that has the potential to play an important role in the future of the channel’s programming. Not only does it offer a new platform in which users can legally access the network’s database almost in its entirety, but it also creates new potential for special features being integrated into the weekly viewing process, and makes the network’s content more readily mobile. When I talked with my cable company to subscribe to HBO earlier today (after having relied solely on screeners to this point), the friendly customer service representative had a whole spiel about HBO Go ready to go, and was clearly using it as a pitch to draw in potential subscribers.

Premiering an episode early is a great way to make users more aware of the service, especially when dealing with the Game of Thrones fanbase who might not normally be HBO subscribers (and who might have only signed up this week, having relied on nefarious methods to this point in the series’ run); if they go to the site to watch episode seven early, they might also check out the pilot for True Blood, and might get hooked enough that they maintain their HBO subscriptions following the Game of Thrones finale.

However, there lies a central concern with HBO Go that makes this kind of initiative somewhat problematic: as a result of the nascent state of the site, a number of cable providers have not been able to strike deals with HBO to feature the service, and since it is tied directly into your cable account this means that a large number of people who are paying for HBO subscriptions do not have access to this sneak preview. While there is clear value from a promotional point of view in an initiative like this one, I do wonder if the way in which it divides the series’ fanbase and potentially bifurcates the conversation surrounding the series doesn’t demonstrate the perils of messing around with serialization in this fashion.

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Season Premiere: The Guild Season 3 – “Expansion Time”

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“Expansion Time”

September 1st, 2009

The biggest challenge facing a show, in the past, was bringing in new viewers. In an age of repeats as the only way to really engage with a show outside of new episodes, anything serialized faced intense challenge. However, as we all know, the internet and DVD have made this easier than ever, and there’s no better example than this than Felicia Day’s hit web series The Guild.

If there was ever an argument for the benefit of internet distribution methods, I’d say this is it: the show remains independently produced by Day, but through funding agreements with various sponsors (including Microsoft) the show has an extensive footprint across various different platforms, and has only increased in both scale and quality since its first season. And due to the ease of access (with episodes on YouTube, at WatchtheGuild.com, as well as streaming on XBox Live and on DVD) of the first two seasons, anyone can catch up as I did, late at night when I ran out of other things to watch and decided to see what all the fuss was about.

The Guild is ultimately, like any good show, about characters and their various nuances. It is unquestionably a comedy, testing the strength of online relationships in the context of the real world to hilarious and awkward results, but at its core is a sort of sadness of Vork’s hermit-like state, and horror at Clara’s child care standards. I won’t pretend to take the show as a social commentary, but there is something beneath its comedy that shows a real appreciation for the types of people who play these games, and the sense of serialized character development that defines the best sitcoms (at least in my eyes).

I went through the first two seasons about a month ago, and really enjoyed them: the first season was sharp in its integration of Bladezz back into the folds (and letting Codex/Zaboo’s odd-couple relationship remain the show’s focus), while the second season worked perhaps even better in splitting everyone up into groups now that the character types had been integrated. When I started the show, it seemed like everyone would be stuck in front of their webcams and we’d be watching the drama of the guild infiltrate their real lives, but now we’re seeing it work the other way around (to a degree) with the real life influencing the guild.

Here’s a link to the premiere at MSN.com, and then my thoughts on the premiere after the jump.

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The 2008 Television Time Capsule: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

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Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

“Airdate”: July 2008

When my power went out the weekend before Christmas (and, coincidentally, the night I conceived of this project), I was stuck with an about to die laptop and my iPod Touch. While the laptop battery survived two episodes of Gilmore Girls, I was left with only my iPod to last until I was tired enough to fall asleep: thank Bad Horse for Dr. Horrible.

Bound to be an internet sensation thanks to the plethora of Whedonverse fans, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is about as good a TV story as you’ll get this year. Joss Whedon and his brother (along with a crew of darn creative people) conceive of an internet musical while off work, and after the strike is over bring on Whedon favourite Nathan Fillion (as the hilarious Captain Hammer) and downright awesome Neil Patrick Harris (as the titular heroic anti-herp), along with Felicia Day (already familiar to internet content thanks to her work in The Guild, as leading lady Penny), to bring life to their creation.

What emerged was successful on two fronts. From an industry perspective, the three-part series demonstrated the power of new forms of distribution: released to the internet through various methods, Dr. Horrible was free to stream, cheap to buy on ITunes, and eventually made its way to DVD late in 2008. Recently named as one of the American Film Institutes Top TV moments due to its potential as a new business model, I think it’s important to note that Whedon’s involvement perhaps created a more viable platform than would other producers.

But that doesn’t really matter in the end, because Dr. Horrible is just damn entertaining. Yes, it’s a monumental achievement, paves the way, blah blah blah – what matter is that the story of a hapless villain struggling to make his way into the Evil League of Evil and win the love of the woman he does laundry next to is filled with witty dialogue, catchy songs, and some great performances (both comic and dramatic) from Harris, Fillion and Day.

I remain convinced, as I was when it aired, that the conclusion feels somewhat dour even acknowledging Whedon’s penchant for such endings, but this doesn’t change the fact that I await impatiently for all parties involved to have enough free time to give us a worthy sequel. In the meantime, living in a world where there is a musical commentary to an internet-distributed musical is reason enough to celebrate.

Related Posts at Cultural Learnings

[For more details on the Cultural Learnings 2008 Television Time Capsule, click here!]

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The Challenge of Streaming Video in Canada

With a flick of a switch, and the power of a battery company, streaming video of shows people actually want to watch (legally) comes to Canada. CTV announced today (Friday) that starting immediately episodes of three of the top-rated shows on television will be available to Canadians on CTV.ca – Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives will see their new episodes available for four weeks after their first airing, allowing those who miss out to catch up.

This is triumphant for CTV, who has oft-struggled to keep their sagging broadband audience at bay after a disappointing lack of continued support beyond certain series, as they can lay claim to the only major Canadian network offering multiple high-tier series in a legal and well-supported platform (All of BellGlobeMedia’s online presences have integrated a new online streaming system far superior to their old one).

This could also be triumphant for people in Canada who have seen “This Video is Not Available in your region” one too many times – with all of the major American streaming sites, whether CBS’ Innertube or ABC.com’s episode viewer, locked out to eyes North of the border due to CRTC regulations, this could be the Great White Hope: a light at the end of the tunnel for an emergence of a broad and all-encompassing broadband presence.

Unfortunately, that just isn’t going to work.

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