Channel Four have launched a new comedy show called The IT Crowd. It is about the IT support group in a large company and is therefore of interest to geeks everywhere.
The most interesting thing about it is that the episodes are available for download from the web site before they are broadcast. Unfortunately Channel Four have chosen to use Microsoft’s nasty proprietary WMV format for the downloads. It would have been nicer if they had used something a bit more open, but it doesn’t really matter as most modern Linux-based video players will handle WMV without any problem.
Or, rather, they handle standard WMV without any problem. Yesterday Channel Four put the third episode on their site and they’ve started using some kind of “digital rights management” on the file. None of my Linux video players will handle it. I just get either an interesting abstract pattern or a blank screen. I tried it on Windows and the Windows Media Player said that I needed to install a “security update” in order to play it (I like that – they want me to install an update that enables them to control how often I can watch something so they lie and call it a security update!)
I assume that if I install this update then I’ll be able to play the file, but only for as long as Channel Four say that I can. They want people to watch over the internet, but not to be able to store a copy of the file locally. I don’t know why they bother. There will be unencumbered copies of the programme available on bittorrent within hours of broadcast on Friday. All they are doing is pissing off people who might otherwise be in the show’s core audience.
And what do I think of the show? It’s ok. I’d download it and watch it every week if it was easily available. I’m not going to worry if I miss an episode. It’s not that good. It’s certainly not anywhere near as good as Cory Doctorow seems to think.
Update: I was wrong on one thing. The bittorrents have appeared before the show has been broadcast. Looks like someone has broken the DRM.