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Watching ABC.com video streams in your living room

There are a lot of different options out there for getting Web content streamed to your PC. In a series of posts over the next couple of weeks, I will take a look at a few of your choices and show you how to get that video into your home theater. After all, Web video isn't going to really take off until it is easy to watch it on your TV from the comfort of your sofa.

Overview

ABC has been one of the leaders in putting their primetime content on the Web (with some commercials, of course). Recently, they announced that they will offer HD streaming in addition to their large collection of SD programs.

Amount of content

ABC currently offers episodes of the following shows for streaming:

According to Jim

American Inventor

The Bronx is Burning

Brothers and Sisters

Day Break

Desperate Housewives

Fashionista Diaries

Fat March

Grey's Anatomy

Knights of Prosperity

Lost

Men In Trees

The Nine

GH Night Shift

October Road

Shaq's Big Challenge

Six Degrees

Ugly Betty

Voicemail

What About Brian

Some episodes of LOST, Ugly Betty, Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives are available in HD.

Hardware/software requirements
  • PC (duh!) For HD streams, ABC recommends a dual core processor and 128MB of video RAM
  • TV with HDMI, DVI or VGA input
  • Keyboard/mouse
  • Move Media Player plugin (available at ABC.com)

For the sake of this review, I used a Dell Optiplex SX270 with 1GB RAM and a 64MB video card. I connected it to an Olevia 32" LCD HDTV via the VGA port and used a keyboard/mouse combo unit to control it.

Setup

Keyboard

Getting set up

The setup process is pretty straightforward, but annoying in parts.

1. Go to ABC.com

ABC home page

2. Click the "Watch ABC Shows Online Now" button in the middle of the page

3. If you haven't used the ABC video player before, you will need to install the Move Media Plugin

ABC Media Plugin install

4. After installing the plugin, restart your browser (copy and paste the player URL before doing so)

5. Head back to the player URL and launch the player

ABC video player

ABC Choose a show

6. Select a program

7. Select an episode

8. Sit through a short promo from the sponsor

ABC preroll

9. Once the video starts to play, change the video window to "Full screen" by clicking the "+" icon at the bottom right of the video window.

ABC show startingABC full show

10. Enjoy 30-60 minutes of commercial-supported video

The viewing experience

If you have the specs to watch the HD streams, the picture quality is excellent. If you're using an older PC like I did, the SD streams still look pretty good. I showed it to my wife and she didn't notice that we weren't watching the show on the TiVo.

Because the video player on ABC.com is Web-based and not a standalone app, you will not be able to use a remote control to easily move around the interface. For many, this would be a deal breaker. Having a compact keyboard with built-in mouse makes it a bit more tolerable; however, it isn't going to compete with my TiVo or the Windows Media Center DVR.

Bottom line

ABC.com's streaming service isn't going to replace your DVR; however, if you've missed an episode of your favorite show or you want to check out a show that you didn't get in on at the beginning of the season, then it's a great solution. In order for this to take hold in the living room, ABC will need to integrate the service with Windows Media Center or with some app that can drive the interface with a remote control.

Are you watching Web video in your home theater? If so, what are you using?

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