We want our Buffy shows! Readers respond to Farhad Manjoo's "Must-Download TV."

By Salon Staff
Published August 13, 2004 7:30PM (EDT)

[Read the story.]

Back in 2001 the Syracuse-area UPN network became a WB network, and Time Warner Cable in Ithaca to this day has not bothered to add a UPN affiliate to its lineup. At the time I lost a handful of shows that I enjoyed ("Seven Days," "WWF SmackDown," "Star Trek Voyager" -- well, OK, I only partially enjoyed that one), but at least my favorite show, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," was going strong on the WB...

...until the start of season 6 that fall, when it moved to UPN.

After many calls and letters to the cable company, I resigned myself to either going to my friend's apartment (where he had the Dish Network and a TiVo) or downloading them off Usenet newsgroups. Many times, I chose the latter.

So am I a criminal because I downloaded programs that I had no other way of seeing in my own home? (My landlord won't let me slap a Dish on his building.) Is this any worse than watching several episodes of "Voyager" that my sister taped and mailed me?

Advances in technology are supposed to make lives easier. But thanks to the idiocy of the local cable company, I have to jump through hoops on my computer to see programs that I could watch if I lived 30 miles from here.

-- Joseph Prisco

Sure, switching to HDTV will help curb TV-show trading online, but so would making the shows officially available for download with the commercials, or even requiring a subscription ... I know I'd pay $1 per episode of "The Daily Show," "Six Feet Under," "The Sopranos," etc., without even thinking about it.

-- Michael G. Switzer

One of the most frustrating things about searching for "legal" reruns -- and what drives people to illegal Internet services to begin with -- is that we can't find legal copies of the things we want to watch at all. The things I look for online are not shows that I can tape off television and watch later, or programs that I can buy on DVD, but events that aired once and won't be aired again.

The Olympics is a prime example. This year's swimming phenom, Michael Phelps, could win as many as seven gold medals. That's quite a step up from the Olympics in 2000, when he was only in one event and placed fifth. Want to see that race? Good luck. NBC would rather tell you about another athlete's epic battle against hemorrhoids than show you this historic footage. I'd pay for it if I could, but where else can I find it except online?

-- Frank J. Probst

I found the article on the new TiVo systems versus downloading content to be well-informed, particularly regarding RSS.

I do have to point out that anyone who downloads a show in a file format for a computer has the option of converting it to a format easily handled in a regular DVD player. And then burning it onto a DVD for personal use. The article implied that people are tied to their computers to watch, much as TiVo users are tied to their set-tops.

I hate commercials, and I resent the way most channels have pop-ups at the bottom of the screen advertising another show while you're watching. So when I download, say, an episode of "The Gilmore Girls," and use conversion software to burn onto a DVD disc, I am choosing to avoid annoyances from advertisers. I may then choose to watch it in any room, house, airplane or in-laws' living room. That's a freedom TiVos don't have.

-- Amy Craighead

In my opinion, BitTorrent is to video what Napster was to audio: a revolution.

I don't agree that the advent of HDTV will end TV-show-sharing online. TV-show traders already routinely share files that have been re-encoded to greatly reduce their file size. This is very unlikely to end with the advent of HDTV.

A one-hour TV show (40 minutes without commercials) can be encoded with Dolby Surround audio at normal TV broadcast video resolution (640x480), and takes up less than 400 MB; this is roughly 20 percent of the size of uncompressed video. While many TV fans may want to download an HDTV show in all of its 14 GB/hour glory, rest assured that most of us will be content to download a 1 or 2 GB version of the same show ... a version that will still have Dolby Surround and a very high resolution.

Of course, by the time broadcast executives are done fighting over HDTV (and how best to protect their quarterly bonuses), hard-drive capacities will be more than capable of storing many hours of HDTV, and broadband Internet connections will have sped up to the point that we'll be right back where we are now.

In fact, I look forward to Farhad's 2010 article: "Must-Download 3-D Holo-TV"

-- A. Johnson

It's both shocking and not surprising that the television powers that be spend their time blocking new technologies instead of figuring out how to work them to their advantage. They need to take a cue from Apple and iTunes. Make it simple and user-friendly. I would imagine most people would be willing to pay a buck or two to download an episode of their favorite show. What do you know! It's a new revenue stream. Go ahead and include the commercials. Somebody might watch a few of them. Make it so an ad runs while the show is downloading: "This download brought to you by Pepsi..." When will these chicken littles learn? These are the same guys that said VHS would kill television.

At some point, I should be able to log on to the Museum of the Moving Image's Web site and watch any television show ever made.

-- Marco DuBose

Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------