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Saturday, April 13, 2024

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Life With Google TV: Watching, But Not Finding, Free Caprica Episodes On The Web

My Life With Google TV series continues. Yesterday’s test: how well could Google TV locate free (and legitimate) episodes of Caprica on the web? Answer: not very well. But once I found them the old fashioned way, Google TV did make it pretty easy to watch them on the “big” screen of my TV, versus my laptop.

I always seems to be missing episodes of new TV shows when a season begins. The promise of Google TV is that wherever a TV show might exist legitimately — be it pay-per-view, broadcast TV or on the web — Google TV will locate it.

Looking For Caprica Using Google TV

Yesterday, I tried a test for Caprica. While technically still in its first season, the show had a mid-season break and only recently began airing new episodes. For those not familiar with the show from Syfy, it’s a drama that covers the history of how the Cylons came to be in the Battlestar Galactica universe. And yes, I’m a big fan.

I know from my past explorations that Syfy puts many of its TV shows out on its own web site. Were there any from Caprica available? If so, would Google locate them? I fired up the Google TV search box, entered Caprica and quickly found the series listed:

The episode list for the current season was up to date. You can see each episode listed. Notice the icons. Any episode can have up to three icons, which show you where the show might be viewed:

  • TV (it’s on broadcast TV, either as a first run or repeat episode to air in the near future)
  • Web (it’s on the internet)
  • Paid (it’s available through the internet via pay-per-view, such as through Amazon)

Google TV Says No

Notice that for the last four episodes, there’s no “Web” option listed. According to Google TV, these shows aren’t available legitimately on the web for free (I keep saying legitimately. I have no doubt pirated or illegally uploaded full episodes are available out there, but that’s not what I’m after).

That seemed odd to me. I hadn’t been to the Caprica web site recently, but I was pretty sure there would be one or two free full-length episodes available.

To check, I consulted with Clicker. This is a dedicated search engine for finding TV content across the web. It has quickly become my touchstone to see if Google TV’s own TV search engine is working well. In this case, Clicker beat Google TV.

Clicker Says Yes

While Clicker is a web site, you can also consult its listings within Google TV itself. In Google TV’s “Spotlight” area, there are a variety of web sites that have been optimized for the Google TV platform:

Clicking on the first “All Sites” tile leads you to the Clicker site:

At Clicker, I was able to do a search for “Caprica” and get back internet TV listings from Clicker’s database, rather than Google TV’s own:

I know the image above is blurred, but you can still see individual episodes listed. The three on the screen all say “Play at: Syfy,” which means they’re available to watch, for free, at the Syfy web site.

Once Found, Able To Watch Using Google TV

Google TV missed these, and that’s a pretty big failure, in my books. But now that I knew where they were located, could I watch them through Google TV? Or was Syfy perhaps doing blocking like some of the major television networks (see A Tour Of How Networks Have Blocked Google TV From Their Web Content for more on that).

I went back to Google TV’s search box. I did a search for “Caprica” and this time chose to view results from the entire web. That made Google TV’s web browser load with results from Google web search, just like you might get by doing a web search using your computer.

The Caprica web site was listed right at the top of the results. I clicked and was taken there:

The site appeared just as it might on my computer. You can see down at the bottom how it says “4 Full Episodes Available.” I selected one of these, which caused an ad to begin playing (the ad was from the Syfy web site,  just like you’d get by going to the site directly. It was not from Google):

After the ads, I was able to watch a full episode for free, through Google TV, despite Google TV initially not finding it:

By the way, had I clicked on one of Clicker’s listings from within Google TV, the same thing would happen — though more efficiently. Clicker’s listing would have caused Google TV to fire up the Google TV web browser and take you directly to the episode on the Syfy web site. There, you’d view it via the browser.

Better Integration & Search Choices?

To make Caprica appear full screen above, I had to find the full-screen button within the play window that was part of the overall web page. What would be really slick would be if either Google TV or Clicker could get the episode to load full-screen within your TV, without having to use buttons like that. Anyone who’s ever clicked on a video in YouTube from an iPhone or an iPad understands this well. You go right to the video, not to the page that hosts the video. I’m sure this is something that will come in the future, as partnerships are further developed.

It also makes me wonder if Google TV will ever allow other search engines to be the default in the device. Want your Chrome browser from Google to use another search engine? Yahoo and Bing are other options baked in. Want your Google-powered Android phone to use something other than Google? No baked in options there, but you can at least add apps. Android-powered Google TV is similarly closed. There’s no way to have your TV listings be powered by default by someone else, such as Clicker. Maybe that should be considered.

In the end, I was happy as usual that Google TV meant I didn’t have to hook up my laptop and start running cables to watch free web TV shows through my TV. I caught up on missing episodes of 30 Rock last week this way. It was nice, especially in that Google TV’s own listings found them for me. With Caprica, it was disappointing that I had to know those episodes were out there and hunt them down without the help of Google TV’s own search tools.

For more about Google TV, also see my post last week, Life With Google TV: My First Day Review & Impressions.

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