I missed the Top Gear Xmas special, but didn't mind, as I knew that I would be able to watch it on the BBC's iPlayer Adobe Air powered mac app.
I dutifully downloaded it and started to watch on my Macbook Pro, the quality was terrible, watchable but terrible. I figured this must be something to do with the flash encoding, so I tried it to download the same show on my liitle xp powered netbook, which offered decent quality but used windows media for the iPlayer encoding.
Well it did. The iPlayer app on Windows seems to have switched to the same Adobe Air based app. So we have gained platform unity at the expense of quality. Its a fair trade, and since the air player is in Beta I hope to see the quality improve.
The other option is to buy the show on iTunes UK, the xmas special isn't available as of now. But I found a free episode from season 10 and downloaded that to check the quality. Overall the experience was much better, not HD, but no blocks on motion and I get to transfer the file to my iphone.
There is a lot of bitching in the UK about paying for BBC shows on iTunes since we are obliged to pay the TV license. But this does miss the point, BBC DVD's are bought by the truck load in the UK, why does no one complain about that?
Also by paying I get to move and watch the file wherever I want (not sure if this is still the case on windows with the switch to the air app), using the most intuitive media sharing application app ever invented, yes I am talking about iTunes.
The reason the iPod is so successful is its simplicity and 70% of that simplicity comes from iTunes. Even Amazon, Apple's main competitor in the music downloads market has an app which puts all amazon music files directly into iTunes.
So I am happy to pay to use iTunes enabled media, and I don't mind. I have a tiered service from the BBC dependant on what 'I' want. From free to air and free online on the 3 major OS's for 7 days with iPlayer, to paid download from iTunes, all the way to DVD and Bluray. This is potentially a good model and one that seems to be becoming ubiqituous in the US.
Now if the rest of UK's networks can pull their heads out their butts and switch from windows media player and silverlight to Adobe Air which is becoming a really useful cross platform solution, we may finally be entering the next phase of Digital Entertainment in the UK