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There’s a lot of free video on the Internet these days, and you don’t need to go spelunking on BitTorrent to find it. But it’s not always obvious where to get high-quality versions of TV shows and movies. Between Hulu, Amazon, Netflix and many, many more sites, it would be nice if someone would come along and lay out our options in clear fashion.
This week, I talked to a couple newly launched and relaunched video discovery sites, so today, on the sad occasion of John Hughes’ death, I put a few of these sites to work to find where I could watch his generation-defining films online.
First up, a fellow from PayTV software provider NDS came by our office to show off a new web project. LocateTV, which just relaunched a couple weeks ago, is a free online interface that analyzes TV listings, online DVD stores and legal web stream databases so that users can track when their favorite shows, movies, actors and the like will be appearing in a format accessible to them.
LocateTV actually works quite well, though it’s a little odd that it’s so TV-centric and comes from a TV company, yet doesn’t actually hook up to your TV so you can do things like tell your DVR to record something right from the web. The site is informational only — you can’t comment, connect to friends or watch streamed content. And it completely ignores YouTube, BitTorrent and other good sources of content that are perhaps not so organized or clean. But the site, which originally launched in Oct. 2007 and has yet to take off, does seem to be very good at what it does. When I searched “John Hughes,” my top result offered a compendium of material from the “producer, scriptwriter, director, actor, executive-producer” himself. And I saw that I’d only have to wait until tomorrow to watch 16 Candles on Encore in HD. Or I could pay $9.99 right now to download it from Amazon.
Next up, I checked on SpeedCine, another new service whose creators I’d interviewed this week. Founder Reid Rosefelt bragged that the site was built by him and one other fellow in their spare time, with the main expense being a $15 per month server fee. Well, cheap isn’t necessarily good — and the site only offers search by movie title, so it spit the words “John Hughes” right back at me. It didn’t know what 16 Candles was either. (Turns out the official title is actually Sixteen Candles, but SpeedCine didn’t know to resolve that for me.) Ferris Bueller’s Day off is there, and I can either watch it instantly or download it from Amazon, the site says. Rosefelt says more content is coming soon; SpeedCine has signed an affiliate relationship with iTunes.
I recalled that CastTV, a site we’ve written about in the past, seemed to be especially good at organizing different versions of content you can find online, so I checked over there. Now this is an improvement! The results come from all over, and are pre-sorted for me. There are 47 John Hughes-related full-length TV and movies, no news videos (I’d guess that will change soon), and 635 short videos. I can elect not to see user-generated videos if I want, but leaving them in is cool too (the other two services don’t even give me the option). Some of the YouTube-type videos are irrelevant (John Hughes isn’t that obscure of a name), so I have to use my brain a little more when parsing through the results.
If a listed video costs money, CastTV shows me exactly how much, so I can comparison shop. And best of all, when possible, the videos play right inline, so I don’t have to leave the page.
Since CastTV has been around for a while, we can get a better idea of the demand for such a service. According to Quantcast (which should be fairly accurate since CastTV is registered there), the site gets a respectable (but by no means massive) 1.9 million visitors per month from around the world. Quantcast also makes reference to the “CastTV Network,” which has 4.9 million monthly visitors, and would seem to indicate that the company is white-labeling its search for a larger site (or more than one). In the past CastTV had been signed to power search for TVGuide.com, but that’s no longer the case, so it must be somewhere else.
Do you have a better automated TV guide for the web? Let us know.