Blog Post

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 (s VIA.B) 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.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
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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 Not a big issue, but just gives you an taste of how sloppy and outdated the player is on the inside as well as the outside.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. 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. 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 (s GOOG) 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.

11 Responses to “Comedy Central’s Video Player: So Bad it’s Funny”

  1. Now that Viacom has pulled The Daily Show and Colbert from Hulu – has their video player experience improved? NOOOOOO! I have to refresh the page and re-watch commercials at least once every time I try to watch an episode! . . . I call conspiracy. I don’t think it’s that Comedy Central CAN’T get it right – I think it’s because they don’t want to. The content is good enough that they figure they don’t have to care about the online experience.

    . . . I still watch. But I wish I could stop in protest. I just love me some Stewart and Colbert.

  2. I completely agree with one caveat. I often hook up my computer to HD TV to watch Daily Show after the fact or for short clips. If you try to stream from CC site it looks awful on TV.

    The obvious option is to simply go to Hulu, but CC is deceptive in that their Hulu “full episodes” do not contain the complete clip – at least not always. Example: the famous Cramer debate. The Hulu clips are cut. The only way to see the entire interview is on CC, which was obnoxious on a TV. I do not think this is a one time case, but I do not have any other top of mind examples. It might be interesting to call CC out on cutting their episodes on Hulu to force fans to go to their site if they want to see everything and then highlight video quality issue.

  3. I am more disappointed that the daily show recently stopped being viewable outside the US. It was a great time for a while where we were able to catch up with the latest shows on the web. I was even willing to accepted ads that were Australia-specific. But now, there’s just a sad white message.

  4. Whenever I want to embed something I usually hit hulu and fancast first–sling’s also pretty good too. But the network sites really need to figure it out and make a good player. Why do none of them have easy to use, embeddable player? The CC one is pretty bad.

  5. Hi Liz,
    There are some efforts within the studios to standardize players (NBC, ABC, and CBS all have diverse sets of players across their business units / properties). Mainly, this is being driven by the need for standard ad delivery and tracking.

    It would be great if some of the big video companies (YouTube?) driving an industry standard for a player and API to interact with it. Are you seeing any efforts to try and make this happen in a broad “industry” sense?