How I watch TV/movies in 2011

I’ve been thinking about this in recent times. I like consuming media during ‘dead-time’, which helps me switch off, and feel refreshed when I have to switch back on. I think the way I’m watching stuff is next to no different from how the average Malaysian urbanite is watching stuff…

Lets divide media that I consume into two different categories: television shows (the form of a weekly series) and movies.

TV
I have a subscription to the satellite tv monopoly in Malaysia, ASTRO. I also have HyppTV via Unifi, and most channels on that are free for the first 2 years, since I was an early adopter. in theory, I have access to a lot of television shows as well as movies. I never watch free-to-air tv, despite it being available.

When I have down-time and I’m sitting at home on the couch (my weekend getaway), you can see me watching live sports (the F1 in general), catching up on CSI, NCIS, Bones, etc. I’m not religious in following these tv shows, so I don’t feel bad if I miss an episode (or ten). ASTRO takes care of this for me via Axn, Fox and sometimes Star World. Live sports is something cable is probably always going to give me, despite there being streaming services on the net.

However for shows that I do have a religious following to, say House, Lie to Me, Californication, Mad Men, I don’t catch these shows on cable tv. Why? For one, I enjoy watching these series either as soon as they come out, or back-to-back. Also, I dislike the censorship board mucking with my content (imagine a censored Californication?!?).

So what are my choices? I can wait to buy the DVD series on a per season basis on my trips to the USA. These used to be very easy when the Virgin store was open in San Francisco. When they closed, I moved on to buying things in Borders. Now even they are gone, so I have to pre-order via Amazon (which takes away the whole impulse purchase for me). Alas, this is my preferred solution, as I get to keep the DVD media for years on.

If I want to catch up with a show that all my friends are watching and talking about, it seems like my only option is BitTorrent. BitTorrent allows me to watch shows on my TV, iPad, or my laptop. And it allows me to be current. It’s flexibility.

I’ve tried rentals and purchases on the iTunes store (using my US-based account) and while the process is easier/streamlined, it’s not available in most regions.

Malaysia is commonly known for DVD sellers peddling pirated shows on disc. They cost RM8 a pop, they’re uncensored, and the quality generally varies, however you usually get a good copy. I asked on a little poll on twitter recently, and generally the tech-savvy folk have given up going to the DVD seller. He has been disrupted by the availability of fast bandwidth and BitTorrent.

I like rewarding production houses, so if I download something via BitTorrent, it’s because it’s something I enjoy, so I will buy the original DVDs when I’m in the USA. I very rarely watch these DVDs, so I’m not sure why I buy them, but maybe it’s just a sense of ensuring I’ve paid for the content I’ve pre-screened.

There are stores in Malaysia that sell original DVDs. I don’t go to them because those DVDs have been thru the hands of the censorship board, and I’m not about to pay USD$20-40 for censored content.

Movies
I enjoy the experience of going to a cinema and seeing a show on the big screen. I’ve become a bit of a cinema snob, preferring to only go to GSC Signature cinemas, as I find the rest of the seats generally too cramped. Most times the shows I catch are ok – but sometimes, the censorship board annoys me again. Recently I caught a movie titled ‘Love and other drugs’. It was so horribly censored that it took away meaning from the movie, and I was unhappy at paying for the tickets (despite getting a 1-for-1 deal thanks to CIMB).

I saw the same movie on a Lufthansa plane and it was so much better. I tend to watch a lot of movies on the plane. It’s free, and it’s uncensored. Screen sizes are getting larger, almost matching the size of the iPad in some airlines (this in coach, mind you). And I have my Bose noise canceling headphones, that work a charm.

For classics, BitTorrent seems to be the easy fix. You can’t walk into a store to buy it, and I’m almost certain the DVD peddlers have no interest in carrying such items. For movies that I really like, I automatically add it to my cart in amazon, for the next big pre-purchase.

Since I have ASTRO, I do flip channels to catch some content on HBO, Cinemax, and Star Movies. Now that they are offering some of this content in HD, I don’t mind watching a movie I’ve never seen before and might have good ratings on IMDB. Most of the time, I don’t notice heavy censorship, and when I do and the movie piqued my interest, the methods above are how I might catch it again.

Elsewhere
As you can see, in Malaysia, people are forced into using BitTorrent or visiting their pirated DVD seller.

There is no Netflix service (I used to be a Quickflix subscriber in Australia – loved the service). There is obviously no streaming on-demand service like Netflix offers in the USA. This is something Unifi is trying to do (video on demand) but the content is lacking/unappealing.

Ideally, I’d like to watch a show, uncensored, because there are ratings. Rate it, and then let the grown ups handle it.

Ideally, I’d get tv and movies on demand, via IP (IPTV is the buzzword in Malaysia for 2011 – watch that space). I can be billed at the end of the month for what I watch, and I get to keep the tv series and movies for a limited time in my library. Rather than artificial time limits, maybe a bookshelf approach as to how many items you can have on rent at any one time. And if I like it, I place an order for the DVD all via my tv. And since this is all IP based, I should be able to watch my content on my mobile phone, iPad, laptop, anywhere I am in the world, as long as I have bandwidth to spare. I should also be able to download a rented copy, so I can watch it while I’m in transit (following the same bookshelf rent method) and have no access to the Internet.

Will all this be possible in Malaysia before 2020?

  • Cant recall when is my last time sitting in front of TV watching ASTRO or in the air broadcast, usually i torrent them for TV series and i do buy the box set when they are available in Malaysia (for the series i like and want to keep). But if i do have a chance to watch ASTRO anywhere, since i dont have a subscription, my first channel to tune in will be Discovery or NetGeo. Well, if there is a good legal solution for on demand TV series, i would use that but i dont see that coming in the near future. Currently still enjoying streaming my torrented local copy to my HDTV via PS3 :D

    For movies, GSC is usually the best but i found out that the only TGV cinema that have proper seating (and im enjoying my movie there since i found out) is at Wangsa Walk and is also i stay near there. Plus TGV have a lot of group buying deals on multiple sites, so its easy to get cheap ticket for good movies too!

    For IPTV, i dont know much about that, but i saw some chinese iptv company, their quality is super crappy, worse than TV1 sd broadcast quality, make me wont want to consider ordering, although i have a 4mbps streamyx at my house which i think is good enough for that.

  • SABNZBD+ is what I recommend :)


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