ABC's New Streaming Service Worth a Look

On May 1st, ABC launched one of the biggest experiments in the history of network television. Through June 30, the network is streaming episodes from some of it's more popular, publicized shows for free. There is no price to watch the episodes, like iTunes. And there's a limited amount of commercials during the episodes, unlike network television. But is this free service worth your time? We took the service for a test drive, to see how well it performs.

The start menu is fairly easy to figure out. Just click on the picture of the show that you want to watch, and it will ask you to click again, to confirm that this is the program you want to watch. You then select the episode you want to view, and you're all ready to enjoy television online.

We started off with the most recent episode of Commander in Chief, “Tie that Binds”. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that the video wasn’t some tiny little 100 x 100 box. It was big enough to make out subtle details in the background. You can also enlarge the size of the video to make it even larger. Surprisingly, there isn’t a whole lot of picture quality lost in the larger size. However, there were more pauses and jumps when the screen was enlarged. (However, as the player actually warned me at one point, it may have been a Bandwidth issue)

Satisfied with what we saw, we then clicked on an episode of Alias, to test the ability to jump from scene to scene. It worked pretty smoothly, though at point , in order to jump ahead about 20 minutes or so, we had to watch a commercial. But all in all, the scene selection worked flawlessly.

When ABC tells you that the programs are presented with limited commercial interruption, they mean it. For each commercial break, you have just one 30-second commercial. One great thing about this aspect is that after 30 seconds, you can click on a link to begin the video again. So if a commercial starts playing, and you want to make a sandwich or walk the dog, you can just leave the video sitting there, and it won't start again without you telling it to. Genius!

Overall, we were able to watch an entire episode of Chief online, with minimal interruption. Leaving the video on pause for a few minutes didn't interrupt the streaming at all; it picked right up where you left off. We were impressed with this service, and can actually envision using it again in the future.

Remember, this beta version will only be online through June 30, so watch for free while you can!

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