by Mielle Sullivan, Janus Networks
Before the Internet, we imagined that eventually we would have an interconnected world where sophisticated computers, with elegant graphics would deliver to us perfect, high-quality entertainment. Then the Internet came and, jeez, it took a long time for a picture to load, not to mention music or video. Our dreams seemed…stunted. Eventually connection speeds increased to enable streaming video, but it took even longer for there to be quality video available online. We had to wait until 2005 for the grainy, short user videos of YouTube. We had to wait for 2007 for Netflix to offer on-demand movies, and another year for that selection to be at all compelling, and that was not free but rather subscription based. Hulu was the first site to offer a variety of popular programs with a high quality streaming experience for free. But Hulu isn’t really a dream come true, for most consumers it’s more quality programming they can easily find.
A new company, Clicker (www.clicker.com) enables consumers to find all the broadcast quality, full episodes available on the web. Clicker says it is “one part directory, one part search engine, one part wiki, one part entertainment guide, and one part DVR” but it feels like a TV episode search engine. You can search for a show by name, genre, what’s new, what’s hot, recommended and a few trending topics. Genres, like comedy, are broken down into a long list of subcategories for easy browsing. Popular shows are featured below the list. Some music and movies are also available. After you find the show you want to watch, you are generally directed to the site where the content is (similar to any other search engine), but sometimes kept on the Clicker site for an episode or two. Overall, the site is easy to use and the experience of being guided to an episode is seamless.
Of course, Clicker is not the only site helping people find what to watch online. Setjam.com is similar, but also incorporates search results of paid content such as what you can buy or rent from Amazon. With a business model focusing on affiliate relationships–Setjam tends to steer users more towards paid content. However, a significant portion of Clicker’s library comes from Netflix which, as previously mentioned, is a subscription service.
Yidio.com is another player in the space, apparently focusing on social recommendations and a discovery engine. Yido is also easy to use, but currently, the library of content it accesses (300,000 episodes) is smaller than that of Clicker (450,000 episodes). Probably, most of the content is the same, but not all. Online TV lovers could benefit from both.
Hulu is still the most well known guide to online broadcast quality entertainment. But it’s not a search engine or a discovery engine–it’s a walled garden of content produced by NBC, Fox and ABC. It doesn’t help you find any content not made by these companies. However because the Hulu library is large, Clicker, Setjam and Yidio all tend to point you to Hulu frequently.
The only frustrating thing about Clicker is that it continually illuminates how little content is available online. Finding out that there are only nine episodes are Seinfeld online, only makes you want there to be more episodes of Seinfeld online. For some shows, the entire catalog is available, but most have just a few. Online broadcast quality entertainment is still limited, not quite a futuristic dream come true. But better ways to help users find all the programming that is available online, like Clicker, may encourage studios to put more of their catalog online.
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