Comedy Central’s Video Player: So Bad it’s Funny

With forever-and-a-day load times, a tiny screen, choppy streams and incessant ads before, between, and after clips, Comedy Central really kills (and not in a good way) its online video viewing experience. Which means it’s a total chafe to watch clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report online. And let’s be honest; that’s a crucial element of the modern lifestyle.

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Embedded above is a recent clip from The Daily Show. In my web editor, it takes 26 lines of code. By contrast, a standard YouTube embed is only five lines long. Not a big issue, but just gives you an taste of how sloppy and outdated the player is on the inside as well as the outside. What’s perplexing is that Viacom’s MTV Networks, which manages the Comedy Central shows’ online presences, actually has developed some much better video players. At the risk of making this page take ten minutes to load, I’m going to embed some examples of players from a few other MTV Networks properties.

Atom.com: Defaults on the page into a nice large player. Smooth playback. Full metadata displayed below. 15-second pre-roll. Embed code is a little messy.

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South Park Studios: Player looks deceptively simple and ugly but it has nice small icons for all the sharing and other features you’d need. 30-second pre-roll. Really short embed code.

MTV.com: Smooth and sharp stream. Nice option to toggle between standard, large and full-screen — more sites should have that middle option. But sadly, at the moment all the videos I’m embedding here as an example are coming up with a “Sorry, this video is no longer available” message. But only after a 30-second pre-roll. Yikes.

OK folks, really? Can you get it together and standardize with one nice video player for all your sites?

It’s sadly fitting that the best two Comedy Central shows are getting screwed, given they’re such a key online asset, one that sparked Viacom’s still unsettled $1 billion lawsuit against YouTube over user uploads of clips (at the time the network hardly even posted its content online, so users were doing the not-so-legal legwork to get their laughs). But in case you don’t know, full episodes and clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are posted on Hulu, so please, if you’re ever embedding or linking me to the latest Stewart rant or Colbert interview, check and see if they’re available there first.

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