The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation has just released it’s comprehensive service for media center PCs. First out is Windows Media Center Edition. The service makes NRK’s vast archive of content on the net available from a GUI that is tailored for use on a TV with navigation through a remote.
I commented this on the blog, since there has been discussion on Boing Boing and other sites about the choice NRK has done in “collaborating” with Microsoft and using Windows Media as its main codec:
When NRK started out all media was in the Real format, also a proprietary format but nonetheless available on more platforms than Windows Media is now. Real was dropped because of its licencingprices, at the time they demanded something like 500000 NOK for their servers, and absurd amount. Over a few years Windows media surpassed Real in codec quality, and certainly in its price structure, and the switch was gradually made. Some of the news sources where available on Real for quite some time. But since then, all video and radio on demand has been windows only. Most of the radio channels are available as streaming mp3 and ogg thought.
What NRK has done is nothing radical, they have simply skinned their on demand video and sound for Media Center, nothing more. It is still available on the web, as freely as ever.
I agree that the choice of windows only is unfortunate, but as Eirik says this is for historical and economical reasons, nothing else. The price to make all the content available in duplicate formats would be astronomical, and I honestly don’t think the norwegian tax payers would be willing to pay extra for it. Still, over time, it WILL be made available on more formats, like the 3G/mp4 content now available on mobiles (including live streaming of the two tv-channels in norway). This format is NOT freely available, and its DRMd to high heaven, so I honestly doesn’t see the connection between Windows media DRM being bad, and Mpeg4 DRM being good.
DRM is necessary on NRKs content. It doesn’t matter if the content “already is paid for” like the moron on BoingBoing wrote, as long as the rights for making it available on the web is not included in that price. Clearing the use for background music for a documentary for tv is expensive and, well, hard, and even harder is clearing the use of artwork, or live performances, and that is clearance for on demand streaming with DRM. If you want the same content available in numerous platforms, including download, you are entering a whole new ballgame of rights clearance hell.
Still, NRK IS working on a download service, for audio, for music, and possible even for video, they have done small steps towards thumbnailing video in flash, and they provide occacional downloads of mp3. In the coming month they will also add to their podcasting service, which now consists of two feeds. And then there is the larger project where they work with the national library, among others, to provide access to content that is cleared for such use, I don’t know what format they use as a basis in that project, I belive it is mpeg2, the last time I heard.
So other formats are coming.