Things that suck: ETV Pluss

Posted: January 3rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Estonia, things that suck | No Comments »

Eesti Televisioon (ETV), the sole Estonian public TV channel (managed by Estonian Public Broadcasting) decided some time ago to enter into digital age with putting its shows and archive of its shows online. The idea is brilliant as there are many shows that are of good quality and many that have real historical significance. However, it did this in the most ill-conceived way possible and that is why the service has failed to attract any significant usage (as opposed to the portal, which broadcasts Kanal2 shows). TV3 seems to be following in ETV-s footsteps, but at least they are a private TV channel, so they can make their mistakes and lose the ad-revenues until they change.

So, what is exactly wrong with ETV Pluss? There are several things:

    1. Partnership with the formerly state-owned dominant telecom Elion. Public private partnerships work in many areas and they are beneficial. In this case, however, the requirement to have Elion’s e-pass to use the service and pay to Elion 70 kroons per month (ca 4,5 EUR) AND a separate fee for the shows as well (ca 1 EUR per show) is outrageous.

    2. Double-dipping in tax-payer pockets. ETV’s archive is not private property, it belongs to ETV and ETV should use it in public interest. Furthermore, ETV gets its funding from the state budget, which in turn gets it’s money from taxpayers (i.e. citizens and companies in Estonia). This means the taxpayer who has already once paid for the upkeep of ETV and for the production of the shows is sold those shows once again for a fee. It is outrageous and I cannot see why people should put up with this.

    3. The technology behind the site is subpar. The site does not use the latest global standard methods of media delivery (MP4, AAC or Flash), relying instead of Microsoft’s dying and antiquated Windows Media solutions. Consumers all over the world have voted by no longer using Windows Media, because it does not work properly, has much worse quality versus file size ratio and because it is not interoperable enough.

    4. The DRM (Digital Rights Management) scheme is unnecessary and complicated. For a small country and for public TV, it should be self-evident that the TV shows should be freely distributable. There is no money to be made from the digital sales as the market is too small and most of the shows are not so good. ETV should be interested in having MORE viewers, not trying to restrict access by complicated and unnecessary DRM schemes.

    5. ETV Pluss only works with Windows XP. When I tried to use the site, I was greeted with a message that I should upgrade my state-of-the-art Mac OS X Leopard operating system (released October 2007) to Windows XP (and not even Vista!). Windows Media Player 10 is also required for the cumbersome DRM to work and it is not available for anything else than Windows. When BBC tried to make its online video delivery system called iPlayer available only to Windows, there was an instant and vocal uproar, which caused the BBC Trust to require from the BBC to also support other operating systems. So they are re-engineering it to make it work with Macs and other OS.

So basically what has happened is that a public TV station has again shown its incompetence and cluelessness about anything digital and created ETV Pluss in partnership with dominant telecom requiring the use of a near monopolistic software company’s operating system. The latter has been found guilty by the European Commission in 2004 and EU’s Court of First Instance in 2007 of illegally abusing it near monopoly in operating systems.

ETV of course has many more problems than ETV Pluss (the quality of its shows, crashing viewer ratings, inability to govern itself effectively), but it is a sign of a mentality that a public broadcaster should get rid of. ETV could and should carry an important public role, but right now it has been marginalised (and not by competition from outside, but because of what they are and how they do things). The BBC went through and is going through the same problems, but there are signs of recovery.

ETV Pluss is a disgrace. Put the archived shows on YouTube, if you cannot think of anything better. Create podcasts of shows, make them publicly available on your website. I can listen to archives of radio shows, why should TV be any different. And, most importantly, stop trying to make money out of things that people have already paid for once.

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