These are just a couple of concrete signs that we’re in the midst of a big shift in the way we watch TV, which is big news when you consider that TV watching accounts for about one sixth of the typical American’s day. Evidently streaming is where it’s at.
This isn’t a new story — WNYC’s excellent syndicated radio show On The Media (which you can catch locally on WESA) did a great roundup of the various new ways in which people are watching tv almost two years ago, and the conclusion even then was that streaming models were disrupting the industry in a big way. And anecdotally, I have noticed that a number of my more media-savvy friends have cut their cable TV packages and replaced them with a carefully curated selection of streaming services: a little Hulu here, a dash of Amazon Prime, and a heaping helping of Netflix. Even the most avid TV watchers (or perhaps especially those alpha couch potatoes) are finding a lot to like about a la carte programming served up over broadband.
And while the Library was in fact an early supporter of binge viewing — how can you not watch episode after episode when there’s an impending due date and 100 holds on your DVD? — the world of streaming video so far has not worked with our business model, namely that of free access to content.
Until now, that is.
Eleventh Stack readers, allow me to introduce you to digital streaming at the Library, the latest addition to our eCLP lineup.
Now you can access free feature films, TV shows, and music with your valid library card from any Allegheny County Library. Here’s how it works:
- Visit the the Library’s landing page for all things digital, eCLP. Click on the link for streaming media.
- Register an account using your library card number and PIN. Please contact our Customer Services department if you have need to update your account or reset your PIN.
- If you plan to watch or listen on an Android or iOS mobile device, download the appropriate app; there are direct links on the streaming video site. A Kindle Fire app is said to be under development, as is compatibility with Roku, ChromeCast, and gaming consoles.
- Search, browse, and “check out” videos and albums. Each cardholder can access up to eight items a month; you generally have three days to watch a movie (with some exceptions) and seven days to listen to an album.
There’s great stuff in there, especially things that appeal to those “long tail” interests that often get buried in commercial services. I’m planning to blow my April allotment on the following:
- Seasons 1 and 2 of the UK Office television series. The American series was the only TV show I regularly watched for about a decade, from around the time of the 14th season of the Simpsons until Parks and Rec started up a few years ago. I hear the English one is even more cringe-worthy than our version, and I can’t wait.
- Monster Black Holes, a National Geographic Special. Because, Black Holes.
- A Perfect World, a 1993 Kevin Costner film that I remember liking when it came out but I have absolutely no recollection of why.
- Robert Altman’s head-scratching live-action Popeye from 1980. I consider Segar’s Popeye comics and (most of) Altman’s films to be iconic Americana, and then there’s this combination of the two, and it is…something.
- Bill Cunningham’s New York. Cunningham, who rides around on his bike and takes pictures of people wearing interesting clothes on the streets of Manhattan for the New York Times, seems to be one of the last holdouts of the old, weird, art-damaged New York City of legend. Watch this documentary about him!
- A couple of albums — electro/punk/dance band Liars new album Mess, because their releases are consistently interesting and usually scary, and, from the Remembering the 90’s Collection, Missy Elliot’s Supa Dupa Fly, because I think I left my copy in one of those big CD binders in a friend’s car at some point around the beginning of the millennium.
Of course, what will actually probably happen is, in a moment of weakness, my daughter will convince me to get 8 seasons worth of Calliou, Madeline, or Sid the Science Kid. And who cares if it does happen? I’ll get another eight tries at streaming media greatness next month. And besides, I can always keep my Freegal allotment for myself.
So add the library to your list of streaming media sources!
Also, if you’re interested in online resources, read more about our plan to go 100% digital by 2016 by getting rid of all of our print books, DVDs, CDs, and other physical materials here.
-Dan, who guarantees that 99% of this post is not an April Fools’ Day joke.