Watching TV On Your Computer

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Omar Gallaga, technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman, explores the latest technology options for watching television on your computer and vice versa. Gallaga says there is more aggregation of television content on the Internet in the form of search engines and new Web sites.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Im Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Im Melissa Block.

And its time now for All Tech Considered.

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On todays All Tech, were going to talk about watching television on your computer and vice-versa. Its a popular topic that weve touched on in the past, but every passing month seems to bring with it a new technology that changes the game. And to sort through it, Im joined once again Omar Gallaga. He covers technology culture for the Austin American Statesman. Omar, welcome back.

OMAR GALLAGA: Hi, Melissa. Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: And weve talked before about the major TV networks putting at least some of their popular shows on the Web. And now if you add to that YouTube, Hulu, Joost, other Web sites like that, the problem isnt what to watch, its how do you sort through all the places, where you can find the shows. Omar, how do you make it easy?

GALLAGA: Well, a lot of people just go straight to Hulu or straight to the network. They know what particular show they are looking for. But were starting to see some more aggregation of that content, more like search engines. Theres a Web site that just launched recently called clicker.com, that sort of indexes all of those free TV shows on the Web and kind of points in the right direction, gives you a link directly to them.

So, you can just type in, you know, Ugly Betty, or 30 Rock, and get a list of what episodes are there and where they are from. TV Guide itself has launched its own service called My TV Guide DVR, that kind of does the same thing. It points you to episodes on the Web and lets you keep track of shows that you sort of subscribe to through TV Guide and also gives links to paid episodes, if they are not available free on the Web.

BLOCK: Yeah, lets talk about money, Omar, because right now I can watch TV online, some stuff anyway, for free including shows that people would pay money to watch on cable. How long do you think free content is going to last?

GALLAGA: Yeah, a lot of it right now is being supplemented with ad revenue and I think Hulu and some of the networks are finding that thats just not enough to kind of pay for the bandwidth and pay for the production cost. So, were starting to see this idea of a second revenue stream of having people pay for content in addition to the advertising cost. For instance, Hulu is talking about possibly next year introducing premium content on it site. So, you might still get episodes of TV shows for free, but you might want to pay a little bit extra to get behind the scenes or to get additional scenes that were cut from the episode or some of the kind of premium content beyond just the base episode. So, were starting to see a lot of that. A lot of talk about this free ride, you know, cant last forever and isnt really sustainable. And unless youre Google, you know, with YouTube and your bandwidth costs are next to nothing, it definitely is those expenses are adding up for the major networks and for people like Hulu.

BLOCK: Weve been talking Omar, about watching TV on your computer. Lets talk now about watching Web content including, I guess, TV content back on your television. Are we any closer to making that easier? Weve talked about this before.

GALLAGA: Yeah, we talked about this in January and even from January till now, theres been a lot of big changes. The basic act of watching Web content on your TV is as simple as just hooking up your computer to your TV. You know, if youve got a $20 cable thats as easy as it gets.

BLOCK: Mm-hmm.

GALLAGA: But were also starting to see new systems - like Dell just introduced a computer called a Zino HD that has an HDMI output. So, it connects right to your TV without any kind of special adaptor. And lots of people have been using the Mac Mini as sort of their media center or the Apple TV. So, you know, thats one avenue, but also were starting to see devices that are dedicated to that. Boxy, which has a great software for PC or Mac to let you watch Internet stuff on your computer, is introducing its own set-top box.

What were just starting to see also, which we talked about in January, is these Web-enabled TVs that will have that stuff built in. Mitsubishi, LG theyve all talked about these televisions that will have Internet capabilities, that will have Netflix and Voodoo and services like that bundled in, so then you dont need the extra hardware box. But right now, I mean, if youve got a computer and have the right cable to hook it up to your HD TV, the video quality online is getting better and better. YouTube just introduced a 1080P video service and even the major networks, most of their recent TV shows are in HD. So, youre not getting the little, tiny, cruddy Internet box on your screen. Youre actually getting pretty close to Blu-ray or a DVD quality video on your TV, if youre hooking up that way.

BLOCK: Omar Gallaga, thanks so much.

GALLAGA: Thanks for having me and were posting a couple of entries on the All Tech Considered blog related to the NPR music project, looking over the last ten years - digital music, MP3 players. Were going to talking about music start-ups. So, all that will be on the All Tech Considered blog at npr.org/alltech.

BLOCK: Omar Gallaga covers technology culture for the Austin American Statesman and for All Tech Considered.

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