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PBS Video on demand
April 22, 2009 11:41 AM   Subscribe

To celebrate its 40th birthday, PBS has loaded - and continues to load - tons of content into its new, slick, Coverflow-ish on-demand site. Full episodes of American Experience, American Masters, Frontline, Great Performances, Masterpiece Theater, Nature, Nova, the NewsHour and a bunch more are now online.
posted by jbickers (44 comments total) 94 users marked this as a favorite

 
*dies*

*waves to St. Peter*

*comes back to earth to finish watching*
posted by maudlin at 11:46 AM on April 22, 2009


*dies*

*waves to St. Peter*

*comes back to earth to finish watching*


St. Peter don'cha take me now;I can't go....

I owe my soul to the PBS shows.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:51 AM on April 22, 2009


I was hoping for some Austin City Limits.
posted by rocket88 at 11:55 AM on April 22, 2009


ACL is there, but very limited so far.
posted by jbickers at 11:57 AM on April 22, 2009


Given that I work second shift, I never get to see American Experience or Frontline, both of which I love. Our local PBS affiliates never seem to do re-broadcasts, either.

This just made a crappy day exponentially greater.
posted by Hot Like Your 12V Wire at 11:57 AM on April 22, 2009


And it works in Canada...
posted by aeshnid at 12:03 PM on April 22, 2009


Dear god, it's made of nova...
posted by mrzarquon at 12:26 PM on April 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is great. What I'd love to see are those old Jacques Cousteau docs from my youth. PBS was such a lifesaver before cable, yo.
posted by heyho at 12:26 PM on April 22, 2009


And it works in Canada...

Hey! BBC! Can we have iPlayer over here now?
posted by Artw at 12:27 PM on April 22, 2009


Actually my dad is trying iot from the UK... doesn't work. Booo!
posted by Artw at 12:28 PM on April 22, 2009


Neat, they have some clips and episodes of Rare Visions & Roadside Revelations, which is a very cool outsider art show that I haven't been able to watch since I moved away from a PBS affiliate that aired it.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:29 PM on April 22, 2009


Wow! Thanks PBS.
posted by dougzilla at 12:30 PM on April 22, 2009


Oh shit. I now have so much video to watch. It was bad enough after I found Firefly and Cosmos on Hulu.

One thing that I see missing is The Elegant Universe. You can watch it online, but it's all broken up into chapters, and the only available formats are QuickTime (ugh) and RealVideo (What. The. Fuck?)
posted by booticon at 12:49 PM on April 22, 2009


My uh... girlfriend... will enjoy watching Antiques Roadshow.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 12:50 PM on April 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


There are two "Great Performances" I really wish I could see again. One is "The Regard of Flight" by Bill Irwin. The other is "In Motion with Michael Moschen".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:05 PM on April 22, 2009


American Masters? Oh, joy! I hope they put up the Buster Keaton shows! God, those were wonderful.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:25 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


"To celebrate its 40th birthday, PBS has loaded - and continues to load - tons of content..."

Strictly speaking, these files are made of electrons, and "tons" of electrons would be, well... (crawls back into hole...)
posted by sporb at 2:08 PM on April 22, 2009


Mmm, this is not the Hulu of public programming I was hoping for. Masterpiece Theater, for example, is only playing the current movie in case you missed them, and not old shows from the 80s. I hope you're right about "continuing to load."
posted by thebazilist at 2:18 PM on April 22, 2009


Frontline offers more programs online on this link. [It is WGBH].
posted by Rashomon at 2:18 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a very slick interface and while I've seen some load problems it seems to work very well in general. It's impressive. And it's still in beta for two weeks so expect it to get better.

I'm responsible for providing the files and info for two of the featured shows. My only problem with it is that some of my encodes don't look as good on playback as the copies I provided and I don't know why that is.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:24 PM on April 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


My uh... girlfriend... will enjoy watching Antiques Roadshow.

There's a "friend" of mine who would've liked to have seen full episodes of the History Detectives because ...err... *ahem*...
posted by Webbster at 2:24 PM on April 22, 2009


Where's Mister Rogers? :(
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:05 PM on April 22, 2009


I love the Chauncey Gardiner-esque search bar. "I'd like to watch..."
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 3:28 PM on April 22, 2009


I second Faint of Butt!
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 3:33 PM on April 22, 2009


Mr. Rogers is not home now, but I'll leave him a message.
posted by cogneuro at 3:36 PM on April 22, 2009


The diagonal sliding of the interface panes makes me feel urpy.
posted by jeffkramer at 3:39 PM on April 22, 2009


Hmmm. No matter what I select, I only get, "This content is currently unavailable." Are we absolutely certain this works in Canada? Maybe a load problem? I live in hope...
posted by Jode at 3:39 PM on April 22, 2009


They're not going to upload Mr. Rogers because of how unamerican he is.
posted by nosila at 4:08 PM on April 22, 2009


Off to see if there's a Boxee feed yet...
posted by sourwookie at 6:53 PM on April 22, 2009


Not bad, but the Frontline section of this viewer has fewer episodes available than can be found on the Frontline site itself.

On a related note, will PBS (and by extension the various stations that produce/distribute content) ever be able to make older episodes available for Internet streaming? For example, there are episodes of Frontline going back to 1983, but most are simply inaccessible (whether for reasons of time, money, or lack of distribution rights I have no idea). It would be disappointing to have such a treasure trove unavailable to the public until they fall into the public domain, by which time they will likely have been forgotten.
posted by armage at 7:13 PM on April 22, 2009


Here in Trinidad I'm getting the "This content is not currently available" message too. I hope it's just a temporary glitch, because PBS ought to be exported everywhere. It's one of the nicest things about America.

Also, I noticed the Frontline people haven't put up their excellent programme "The Age of AIDS", but that's OK because you can still watch it here.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:18 PM on April 22, 2009


Oh, good. Now maybe we can see lots of stories Frontline has spun the way Big Industries would prefer.
posted by O Blitiri at 9:07 PM on April 22, 2009


Not working here in Toronto, which is especially disappointing considering this.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:12 PM on April 22, 2009


Thank you so much for posting this.

Oh man, I realize that the rights to these will be harder to get, but if they did this for Independent Lens, P.O.V., and The Short List, I would be incredibly happy. Those are some of my favorite PBS shows which are difficult to catch and rarely rebroadcast, at least where I am.

I have long been wondering when PBS was going to start putting more content online. I really hope they keep up this trend and expand it to their lesser-known shows as well.

also if they did this with some Bob Ross that would be nice
posted by wander at 9:28 PM on April 22, 2009


wander, some of Independent Lens is on Hulu.
posted by Knicke at 9:33 PM on April 22, 2009


For example, there are episodes of Frontline going back to 1983, but most are simply inaccessible (whether for reasons of time, money, or lack of distribution rights I have no idea).

We don't have the rights to stream them and it would be too expensive to acquire very many from the catalog. Internet rights are now typically negotiated along with the broadcast rights, but obviously they weren't back in 1983. But we don't always keep up the rights on shows that we stream either. I got an email yesterday asking me to remove the video for three low-traffic shows for whom rights are expiring.

So the short answer is that unless you have an organization that would like to specifically fund it, you're not going to see very many episodes of FRONTLINE from the past available for streaming.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:19 AM on April 23, 2009


I'm in Toronto, and found that everything was playing perfectly yesterday, but I'm getting that horribly compressed and sibilant "not available" audio message now.

I'm inclined to think that this can't be a permanent lockout message -- it's such poor quality and less than informative -- so either there's some internal tech or political issue right now that has required this be put up on the fly, or there's a more professional, Hulaesque "ha-HA!" coming up.

Mayor Curley, are you aware of any geographical rights issues?
posted by maudlin at 4:59 AM on April 23, 2009


Geographical rights issues do exist for some content. For example, one Frontline documentary several seasons ago was made in conjunction with a British company (might have been Channel 4. I can't remember). As a result of the production agreement, Frontline couldn't stream the show to viewers in the UK and ROI and we blocked video access on the site.

To the best of my knowledge, no Frontline episode currently in the PBS player has geographical restrictions on it. But it could come up again in the future, and I'm sure that at least NOVA has had similar agreements. However, we don't provide PBS with information about country blocking for the content in their player right now.

So I don't know if the player is US only just to be safe or if country blocking is something they haven't dealt with yet. I can see how it might be simpler for them to make it US only, so that might be the case. But I don't know that for sure.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:11 AM on April 23, 2009


So the short answer is that unless you have an organization that would like to specifically fund it, you're not going to see very many episodes of FRONTLINE from the past available for streaming.

Dang. I suppose that means we have zero chance of seeing lost gens like Alive From Off Center and Trying Times on this thing huh? Still, pretty cool.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:38 AM on April 23, 2009


Dagnabbit, yesterday everything but American Experience was working for me (Canada), and now none of them are. And I don't see any streaming Joy of Painting, either. Sigh.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:38 AM on April 23, 2009


"This content is currently unavailable."
Boo! Bring back the old PBS site where us un-Americans could actually watch the content.
posted by howling fantods at 12:48 PM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


knicke: wander, some of Independent Lens is on Hulu.

Thank you so much for telling me this! I have used hulu a fair amount, and been pleasantly surprised by some of the more random stuff they have on there, but I definitely did not expect them to have Independent Lens on there. I didn't even think to look for it when I was browsing. I will be catching up on those when I can.
posted by wander at 1:59 PM on April 23, 2009


'Content no longer available' to Canada. Rats.
posted by aeshnid at 8:02 AM on April 24, 2009


In Canada, I can get some of the content.

Wide open (yay!):

- Frontline
- Frontline World
- News Hour

Locked out with text message "The selected item is not currently available":
- Julia Child
- Masterpiece Theatre
- Time Team America

Locked out with audio message "This content is currently unvailable"
- Everything else (American Experience, American Masters, Antiques Roadshow, Great Performances, Nature, Nova, Nova Science Now)

So it looks as if the news division, at least, can share, but arts, sciences and fluff are temporarily or permanently locked away. I don't know if that audio message is any hint that this is just a temporary lock -- because I was getting some of these shows on day 1 -- but one can hope, can't one?
posted by maudlin at 12:18 PM on April 24, 2009


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