A Weeklong Series

Deprivation Day 2: No TV? No Problem

Matthew Creamer Finds Jack Bauer on MySpace

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- A national nightmare is over, and I'm not talking about Jack Bauer's latest bad day. Just minutes after filing yesterday's post, the recent episode of "The Sopranos" popped up on YouTube, divided into five 10-minute segments. For reasons that are unclear, the fourth segment, wherein A.J. tries to off himself, was missing. Happily, another user posted a five-minute clip of the suicide bid, meaning that I only ended up missing about four minutes of the episode.
Jack Bauer from Fox's '24'
Jack Bauer from Fox's '24' Credit: Fox

Interestingly, the episode was distributed courtesy of Million Movies Download.Com. Posting sliced-up episodes of "Saturday Night Live" and other shows seems to pretty much be the extent of this site's promotional strategy and it seems like a sound one, even if there are a few cease-and-desist letters in there. I e-mailed an HBO spokesman to see what they thought of this, but hadn't heard back at press time. Anyway, thanks a million, Million Movies Download.com, wherever you are.

I, the average Nielsen family

And now a comment on methodology that I should have addressed yesterday. Many readers have already asked why I don't just download all this stuff via the torrent networks that are distributing shows just hours after they air. The main reason is that I had planned trying to approximate the tech capabilities and know-how of what I imagine to be an average Nielsen family. Given that, at most, only 10% of internet users watch TV on the web, I thought I'd limit myself to computers and iPods and leave out the slightly more involved stuff like torrents or more expensive gear like Slingboxes. Also, using that stuff would make this frightfully easy, though it does occur to me that maybe that should be the point. (And I swear to all concerned, I'll get to Joost.)

The masses have great taste

This is what sucks about watching "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report" in the legal environs of a Viacom-owned website instead of YouTube. First, there are the ads, but I'll forgive that -- what with the need to make money and everything. Second, it makes me see stuff that just isn't funny, which, in the days before Viacom's aggressive monitoring of the site, rarely happened.

I've only recently realized that YouTube -- or, more accurately, its community -- acts as an incredible filter. I know attributing some level of distinction to the land of 9/11 conspiracy-laden comment boards may seem idiotic, but I'm serious. Having the masses decide what to post and then what to help make most-viewed works a lot better than some media company slapping a bunch of clips from its own shows online. That only results in me having to see quite possibly the worst Stewart segment of all time, an informative yet incredibly boring interview with Zaki Chehab.

Most video, and especially this kind of content, is better consumed in an on-demand way, as something to nibble at. And it would seem that a major challenge for the big media companies is to make any of the online plays a destination in and of themselves, especially without the intensity of the social-media experience that YouTube brings to bear. When there's an endless amount of content -- high-end news and entertainment bracketed by LOLCats, homemade music videos, and David Hasselhoff eating Wendy's while drunk -- some organizational system is necessary beyond the old-media principle of We Made It, So You'll Watch It.

Thank you, Fox

May sweeps brings us the season finale of "24" and a chance to tool around with Fox's offering, something I hadn't really done before. Besides mimimal commercial interruptions and a sharp HD picture, Fox On Demand's presentation of "24" offers great integration with News Corp. sibling MySpace. You actually watch the programming on a MySpace page dedicated to the show, which puts the community aspect front and center.

In March, when News Corp. and NBC announced their joint video project, there was a lot of reasonable skepticism that online TV has anything approaching a long-form future. I think this is mostly right, but the current experience offered by Fox gives some reason to believe otherwise. That's because it complements a TV-like experience with the interactivity of a video-sharing site. The ad environment, too, is nice and streamlined. For "24," there were just a few 15-second spots from Norwegian Cruise Line that really made the brand stand out. I may regret writing this, but with a relatively clutter-free atmosphere like this one that's never overbearing, you can almost imagine something of a future for interruptive marketing.

I'm not a huge fan of Fox's programming, with the main exception of "The Simpsons" and "24," but all in all this is a pretty great experience from the old-media firm that most clearly grasps what the future brings. I'm already looking forward to getting my Wall Street Journal/Fox Business Channel embedded in a MySpace page and seeing what kinds of pages those traders in the pit come up with.

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