Before you will be able to play the resources listed in this article, you should be equipped with the latest versions of at least two pieces of software: the G2 RealPlayer, and the Microsoft Media Player. Some of the resources listed will work with older versions of these applications, but if you have the latest versions, all of them will run properly. Some clips have been encoded by the suppliers with the latest codecs precisely to encourage users to upgrade to these latest versions of streaming media players. The G2 RealPlayer is free, as is the Microsoft Media Player. The RealPlayer G2 is available from www.realplayer.com. The Media Player (for ASX format files) is available at Microsoft's Earthstation 1 site at: www.earthstation1.simplenet.com. The EarthTuner application, which comes with a useful list of sites (updated regularly), is also available from Earthstation 1. this can play both ASX and RAM bitstream formats. The Media Player should be configured to open when you select a link to an asf or asx format file, and the realplayer should be configured to open when you select ram, rm or similar files.
The quality of the images available in Media Player or Real Player format is significantly different: Real Player images are better at lower bandwidth than those in Media Player format. However the high speed bitstreams handled by Media Player produce a much more acceptable moving image. Both allow you to stop and start the stream anywhere, and jump to another part of the stream (provided of course that it is a finite and pre-existing stream, such as a movie). You can watch half of a film one night, and the second part on another occasion, without having to wade through the whole of the first half again. In 'Compact' mode, this facility is not available with the Real Player: if you want to jump around the bitstream you have to run the Real Player in Normal Mode.
Ariadne readers with dialup access at the notional 56 kilobits per second should be able access everything except the two highest streaming speeds (100kbps and 250kbps), and those with 28kbps access can use the slowest links. Readers with direct internet access via ISDN, cable modem or a T1 connection (or better) should be able to access everything if tried at the right time of day, and on the right day of the week. Early Friday evening in the UK is recommended, or early Sunday morning. Many of these sites are testing services, so not everything might be available when you look. All the links were operational at the time of writing. Users of any of these links also should be aware that standards of what is acceptable broadcasting varies round the world, and that Ariadne is not responsible for the content of these links. However all the links in this article are to responsible broadcasting sites, as far as we can determine.
Users of the web might imagine that film and television companies are not about to start making digital versions of films available through this medium until (at least) bandwidth stops being a problem, quite apart from the copyright control issues involved. This view is incorrect however, as will become apparent. The technical difficulty of supplying watchable quality video on the web is much nearer solution than most users realise. Bandwidth is a problem for high quality digital video, which is what people will pay significant amounts of money to receive. However those with good connections to the internet can already find watchable streaming video, and much of it (so far) is free.
Television has never tried to sell itself on the basis that it is the highest technical quality visual medium: it has to do other things to prosper. So problems of bandwidth alone are not insuperable. Those who travel by Virgin Atlantic will be familiar with those tiny LCD colour television screens, about 3 inches by four, embedded in the rear of the seat in front. The pixel count is not high, but as long as the picture is moving, it doesn't seem to matter too much. Especially when the alternative is that you stare at nothing or else the tops of clouds for seven or eight hours. Streaming video on the web ought to be better than that to get a big audience, but it doesn't have to be great quality to be watchable. And we are now getting to the point where the quality is sometimes very good indeed.
I've split up this description of what is available first into geographic groups for standard TV news and general broadcasting. The geographic categories are: Europe; North America; South America; Asia, and the Middle East. The Middle East category covers (for the purposes of this article) both the familiar geographic area and the wider Arabic speaking World. Then a listing by subject area: Drama; Archive Television; Other Educational Resources; Financial Services; Religious Broadcasting; Commercial Film; and Music.
Since I began to put this article together I've stumbled across more and more material, but have included only some of it because of constraints of time. The range of what is available is worth exploring for yourself, since there is much treasure out there waiting to be discovered. It was announced in November 1999 that Steven Spielberg is planning to produce movies specifically designed to be viewed on the web. This is a new departure, since almost everything available so far was originally shot to be seen using a larger viewing format. Maybe Pixar would be a more obvious candidate to have a shot at this, but, the very fact that Spielberg is interested in undertaking a project of this kind, is a sign of the way things are likely to go.
The BBC broadcasts its main evening news bulletin on the web, but not yet either of its principal terrestrial channels. Also, News 24 and more surprisingly, BBC World (the satellite and cable equivalent of its long established radio 'World Service') - both prime candidates for web broadcast, are not on the web. The BBC has pioneered institutional presence on the web - it had one of the first significant web services as far back as early 1994 (possibly even earlier - I wasn't looking before). ITN (Independent Television News), the BBC's competitor in the UK also makes a version of its news broadcasts available via streaming video. Euronews provides a similarly high quality news service, but aims not to over-privilege any national point of view. N-TV News (Germany) broadcasts at two levels of technical quality: 28 and 56 kilobits per second. The higher speed stream is impressive. As far as Spain is concerned, so far I haven't come across any web streamed TV channel emanating from Madrid or Barcelona, but there is a station in Galicia: Radio Galega TV. A web stream: HRT TV 20K Video (Croatia), broadcasts news and films in Croatian, but actually emanates from an address in Hungary: but no Hungarian stations seem to be available. News from the perspective of the Greek speaking world emanates from a station in Cyprus, and there seem to be at least four stations broadcasting from Cyprus via web streaming. This is perhaps a little surprising, but they seem to be unreliable at the moment (why their addresses are not listed here). Is there a pattern to the establishment of a web-streamed version of television programming? Organizations with prestige and significant market position run streamed services to maintain their position within the broadcasting community, whereas a number of smaller TV companies are there because of sheer interest in the power of the technology, and/or because they have the time, and the technological skills to make it happen. It isn't that difficult to make it happen, and also, given the current costs of storage, not that expensive an undertaking. [Group 1]
As might be expected there is a large amount of streaming video emanating from the US. Fox News supplies a New York based continuous broadcast (arriving at around 20 kilobits per second), which I first saw on the web sometime in 1996. However you will now look in vain for the address of this stream on the Fox News site: they now want users to select chunks of newscast to make their own newscast. In this way Fox News can gather information about user preferences, which they may use in the future to devise their programme structures. Access to both formats for Fox News streaming newscasts are given in the references. The video should appear in a separate player window. CNN on the other hand provides an inline player for its news service, available via the CNN home page. News broadcasting from the ABC and NBC networks does not seem to be available in streaming format, or at least not via their top level home pages. MSNBC makes both canalised and segmented news broadcasts available from their home page at both 28 and 56 kilobits per second (and higher): very good technical quality. Moving to what is available from local broadcasting stations, WCPO TV 9 (Cincinnati) is an example of canalized web broadcasting: the news broadcasts from the previous day, plus the sports, health and weather programming, are available as separate options on demand. Incidentally, the home page of WCPO TV 9 also links to a number of webcams in the Cincinnati area. San Antonio, Texas, has KENS TV, which makes available its Sunday News broadcast in streaming format. It also maintains an archive of news broadcasts, accessible to users. From Portland, Oregon, KGW TV8 supplies live video in a continuous stream. A station in Canada (DEN Dowco Live video) broadcasts a mixture of talk radio, music and reportage. This Canadian outfit isn't engaged in expensive broadcasting, but is successfully exploiting the medium, and the result is probably something like the kind of web television broadcasting we can expect in quantity in the future [Group 2]
TV Frecuncia Latina broadcasts from Peru what appears to be its standard programming. News and entertainment appear to be the staple of the station, in Spanish. As in the case of North American stations, European users have to negotiate the time difference of about six hours: it is possible to see daytime programme first at the time when the Internet starts to slow down for European users at approximately 2pm GMT. This makes access a little jerky. If you link to the station at around 9am GMT you will receive overnight programming, which seems to consist only of uninteresting short looping station videos. Globo news video from Brazil broadcasts a continual stream of what again appears to be its standard programming. The focus is on news and the language is Portuguese.TV Cancao Nova broadcasts a live video stream from Brazil in Portuguese. The focus of the stations programming is religious, or at least it has been most times I've dropped in. Though I once saw a cookery programme in progress.TV Nacional-Noticias broadcasts Chilean national news in Spanish on demand. The service begins with a thirty second trailer which seems to belong to its service provider (www.openbox.com) rather than the station. Venevision in Venezuela broadcasts only the audio track from its news programming (at around 16 kilobits per second), which means it is easily one of the most accessible television broadcasts on the web. Other South American stations are described under the 'Music' heading. [Group 3]
Tunisian TV is, perhaps surprisingly, one of the best television feeds on the web, in terms of technical quality. Beginning with programme music by Vangelis, the fast on demand stream comes hammering in at around 48 kilobits per second, compared with the slowest, which struggle in at around 6 to 8 kilobits per second. The result is a totally convincing moving image, good sound, and also excellent synchronisation. One of the few services which looks like a television picture when expanded to fill the whole screen. The 28.8 transmission is of course the one which should be selected by those with slower internet connections (i.e., dialup). The news broadcasts are available in both Arabic and in French, but do not seem to be updated regularly. There is also a live feed from the station which is also high quality (around 60 kilobits per second). Like most Arab television services, prayers are broadcast several times a day, as well as news, drama, and 'lifestyle programming.' It also broadcasts coverage of official events and engagements in the kind of depth common to middle east broadcasting. For instance, if the President of Egypt opens an IT facility at a polytechnic, Egyptian television might broadcast 45 minutes of verité about the event, depending on what else is happening that day. Tunisian TV seems to have the same kind of programming priorities. Also broadcasts local popular music. Bahrain TV is also available on the web, but the quality (when I looked) was pretty poor. In fact the worst sound quality I have ever heard on the web. It may be better by the time you follow the link; runs both inline and in a detached viewer (I found the latter worked better). Iran has two television web streaming feeds currently: both from IRNA one on demand video stream delivers news in English (28 kilobits per second). The other on demand video stream delivers what appears to be the local Islamic Republic News programming (both listed in the references). [Group 5]
The accompanying text to this on demand film says that all copies of this film of Richard Burton's performance as Hamlet were withdrawn after only two days and ordered by Burton to be destroyed. However his wife Sally Burton turned up a complete copy four years ago. It was first made available again on the web via the AEN (the Alternative Entertainment Network). The site says that: "Burton did not want the film to be re-released because the technical quality was less than ideal, and also because he was still playing on stage at that time and he did not want to be in competition with himself. He wanted people to see him on stage and that performance was infinitely better than what could be captured on film. With the technology we have now we have improved the quality and thus we have overcome Richard's first objection. Secondly, and most obviously, he is no longer here, and thus as an historical record it is appropriate to release it. This three hour presentation of Richard Burton's Hamlet on AENTV will mark the first broadcast of this filmed masterpiece anywhere in the world. It has been restored and digitally mastered for superb audio and video. Hamlet will be available on-demand indefinitely". The site also includes a link to a short segment of an interview in which Burton talks about the film. [Group6]
A number of famous pieces of 1950s and 1960s television are available in streaming video format. The launch of Apollo 11 (first Apollo flight to land on the moon) is available from Microsoft's Earthstation 1. Earthstation 1 makes available a vast collection of mainly audio clips in addition to streaming video and still graphics. Also available from this site is streaming video of Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon - though you have to wait for about ten minutes before the main part of the clip: fast Forward. Some of John F. Kennedy's famous television broadcasts are available from the same source, including his famous broadcast on civil rights. The famous clip of Marilyn Monroe wishing JFK a happy birthday is available (at the time of writing the dress she wore on the occasion was auctioned for a very large sum of money), as well as an equally famous clip of Lee Harvey Oswald being interviewed in New Orleans a few months before JFK's assassination in Dallas, Texas. Several hours of the television coverage of the JFK assassination and its aftermath are also available from the Earthstation site.
One site in particular which makes available a large archive of TV shows from the fifties is AEN (the Alternative Entertainment Network). The name of the archive is the Golden Years of Television. All of the hour long selections are US versions.
A couple of episodes of the sixties series Bonanza are available from westerns.com. These now look wooden in construction and dialogue. They probably did at the time, but I was too young to notice, or actually preferred programmes like that. Lots of them were made and the scripting schedule must have been terrifying. The commercials have been excised from these versions, so they run for 50 rather than 60 minutes. Those who recall the phrase "The story you are about to see is true: the names have been changed to protect the innocent" will probably recall the American detective series Dragnet, which aired in the mid to late 1950s, and throughout most of the 1960s too. An episode is available from AEN, with the original commercials intact. This episode is worth watching for the sponsor's commercials alone ('Chesterfield' cigarettes), since with the benefit of the passage of time, these have come to look absolutely preposterous.[Group 7]
C-SPAN is a US educational site of very high quality and extensive resources. It runs two main channels, available throught the pages of the web site: 'C-SPAN' and 'C-SPAN online resource for public affairs' (US). Two intermittently used other channels are available from the site, and it includes an extensive archive of clips. The site also includes a substantial collection of video materials of interest to those interested in the work of Parliament and political parties in the UK. At the time of writing William Hague's Conservative Party Conference speech in Blackpool on October 17 1999 was available here in full, as was Tony Blair's Labour Party Conference speech in Bournemouth, 28th Sept. 1999. Also available are the White House Daily Briefings. All of these are currently accessible via the links in the references to this article, though some of them are likely to be removed after a couple of months.
The activities of the Italian Parliament are publicly available on the web through the Senato Della Repubblica Live Home page a which has a realplayer window (Videoparlamento). There is also a substantial archive available. In case nothing is broadcasting when you visit, one clip from the archive is linked to directly from this page (session of the 10th September 1999)
Court TV. Highly useful web stream for those interested in the actual workings of a courtroom. Like many North American television stations, off-peak hours are often given over to Christian religious broadcasting. Court TV broadcasts during US daylight hours. [Group 8]
Bloomberg TV provides Stock Market and Financial News very much in the format of general terrestrial and cable news programming. Two different video streams, delivering different programming. Available both in Microsoft ASX and RealPlayer streaming formats.
World Business Review is made available by the Alternative Entertainment Network, and it is a half-hour programme introduced by Caspar Weinberger. A number of editions deal with Internet Business issues and e-commerce, and it is pretty much a showcase for specific products. One of the editions available features Vincent Cerf (sometimes described as the father of the Internet) and Mark Collet (of Hitachi) talking about e-commerce in the context of Hitachi software, plus other items. Users are directed for further details to the World Business Review web site. Vincent Cerf thinks that shortly it will be possible to dump 2 hour movies through cable modems faster than real time, at several megabits per second. And he is in a pretty good position to know. [Group 9]
The Jesus Film Project Online. A two hour twenty minute on demand feature film of the life of Jesus, based on the Gospel of Luke. The film, made originally in English, is available in fifty different subtitled versions, including Uzbek, Western Farsi, Sindhi, Cebuano, Telegu, Hakka, Tagalog, Marathi and Shanghainese. It is possible to see the end of the film separately. Do they have 50 versions of the ram file stacked up on a server, I wonder, or is the soundtrack added on the fly from a database? The file comes in at 80 kilobits per second. Given that we know the necessary basic parameters, it took just a few seconds to work out that one copy of the film fills 84 megabytes of space on someone's hard disk. So since two 9 gigabyte disks would accommodate the whole lot with no problem, the project might well have fifty versions stacked up on a dedicated server. More typical religious broadcasting is represented by COA Christian Broadcasters TV39 Video, based in the US. Vatican News: direct from the Vatican. Unfortunately I've yet to see anything on this yet apart from a 'coat of many colours' test card. Perhaps fronting the service with the Papal coat of arms would have been a better choice if the station's broadcasting is generally irregular. [Group 10]
Several full length films are available on the web. Many seem to be amazingly old, cheap and relatively unwanted items which allow companies to test the technology and establish themselves in niche markets at relatively little cost: often the sort of thing that fills up the ovenight schedules on 24 hour television channels. Expect strange celluloid based glitches and variable speed soundtracks. There are however a number of interesting films available. For instance, Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin and Strike are both available from xoom.com's Classic Movies pages. H.G. Well's famous film of the 1930s, Things to Come is also available from xoom.com. Others of historical interest are:Way Down East (1920, starring Lillian Gish; Directed by D.W. Griffith). Thunder In The City (1937, Drama - starring Edward G. Robinson). And: Of Human Bondage (1934, Drama - starring Leslie Howard) These films require a basic registration with xoom.com, in order that the company can track usage of the site, but there is no fee required to view these films.
The Halas and Bachelor animated classic Gulliver's Travels is available on the web, and also a less well-known version of Aladdin. These are available from Netmoviemania. Several other high quality video streams are available from the same source, including: The Third Man with Orson Welles; Marlon Brando's One-Eyed Jacks; Zulu with Stanley Baker and Michael Caine (note the variable speed during the titles; it gets better afterwards); John Huston's Beat The Devil with Humphrey Bogart; plus the classic 1939 version of The Thirty Nine Steps with Robert Donat; and Fire Over England; (Francis Drake and the Armada) with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. Liliana Cavani's controversial The Night Porter streams from the same source.
westerns.com has a large collection of variable quality full length movies from the thirties and forties, freely available for viewing on the web. These include titles such as: Old Louisiana (the story of the Louisiana purchase), starring a completely unrecognisable and dark-haired Rita Hayworth (in 1937, before she met Orson Welles), 56 mins. The quality of the start and finish of the film is very poor. Also: Buster Crabbe and Richard Arlen star in Wildcat (1942), 73minutes, and West of the Divide (John Wayne) an agonisingly bad film (unless it improved ten minutes after it started) from 1934, 53mins.
Among sites which maintain lists of films and excerpts which are available in streaming format (ASX, RAM and Quicktime) are: www.hollywood.com; Earthstation 1; www.aentv.com; www.videoseeker.com; as well as windowsmedia.msn.com. In the references to this article can be found links to trailers for Gone With the Wind, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Blair Witch Project, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, and Man on the Moon. Explore. [Group 11]
Most of the music specific streams I have seen so far are youth oriented, broadcasting a mix of modern dance music (from ambient through chill-out, jungle, trip-hop, trance: all that stuff, etc., to plain drums and bass). Three linked on this page originate in Dublin, Ireland. Two come from the same outfit, at different speeds: 44k.com. Graphically one of the most interesting video streams. Sometimes they broadcast film of people jumping around in clubs, sometimes highly ritualised animated quasi-abstract displays. Sometimes the two are cut together. The programming for each video stream is not the same, so if you don't like what you are getting from one, you can switch to the other (if you can cope with both stream speeds, that is).The third is from www.isis.ie and generally seems to consist of a variety of shots of a bloke (or blokes) shuffling 12 inch vinyl disks around a double turntable deck. A similar station broadcasts from Mexico: station tu1/2. When Mexico is asleep they seem to play a Mexican counterfeit of US AOR, strung out somewhere between Aerosmith and Fleetwood Mac. Heard an interesting version of 'Whisky in the Jar', which kind of missed the point. I also found two streaming feeds from the same outfit in Brazil: one shows Frutos da Terra, an on demand stream of entertainment programming; the other is an on demand stream of the music programme: Noites Goianas O Show. Sound not good when I've looked, but I may just have been unlucky. I've already mentioned Doordarshan (in the 'Asia' section), which has an archive of performances of Indian classical music available (50 minute programmes). [Group 12]
When I began researching the article I had no idea so much was out there already; but things are moving fast: by the time you read this the map is likely to be out of date. As a whole the article should remain a useful start to exploring streaming resources on the Web for a year or so. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and an intimation of what will be available over the next few years.
University of Bath