Watching your favorite TV shows online isn’t as easy as we’d like to believe. TV content is scattered across various sites and in different, competing formats. Video search doesn’t yield relevant results consistently. And sure, BitTorrent has everything under the sun, but BitTorrent isn’t easy for everyone to use (that sound you hear is an armada of nerds firing up their keyboards to contradict me).
So what’s a viewer to do? Check out SideReel.com, a wiki-style video search site.
Founded in January of this year by two former Guba execs, SideReel wants to be the conduit to your favorite TV shows and other content.
SideReel just lists links to find content, so it is distributor neutral. Heroes disappears off iTunes and goes to Amazon? SideReel just changes the link.
To find what you want, SideReel believes that people are more powerful than the algorithm. With that in mind, what separates it from video search sites like Truveo and blinkx is that it uses its community to deliver relevant results, as rabid fans keep the site’s info and links up-to-date. To be sure, the site’s traffic does not yet impress; daily visitors currently number in the “tens of thousands.
In an effort to compare sites, I recently tried searching for Battlestar Galactica. Both Truveo and blinkx came back with trailers and commercial clips, while SideReel, after asking if I want the 1978 version or the modern version of the sci-fi story, provided me with a list of places where I could watch full episodes of the series streamed online, or buy them off iTunes and Amazon.
SideReel links to some suspect sources for content. I watched an episode of Battlestar that was in English, complete with the Sci-Fi Channel logo, but with Chinese subtitles. SideReel says that it can’t proactively monitor content on the site — and because it’s a wiki, copyright holders can quickly remove content if they want. But that might be too cute by a half. No matter how they do it, SideReel is still asking others to police its site.
But if you’re ambivalent about shady content sources, why not just use BitTorrent, you say? You can find anything there. True, you can use a BitTorrent tracker to find TV shows quickly, but you still need to download a client — a prohibitive task for the less tech-savvy among us.
SideReel isn’t alone in this space, with competitors coming up like LocateTV (now in private beta). But SideReel’s still a good option for the average joe who simply wants to watch TV online.