Internet TV goes live on Windows 7 Media Center

Internet TV goes live on Windows 7 Media Center

Summary: One fascinating detail almost got lost in the shuffle of last week's Windows 7 launch. Microsoft flipped the switch on some partner deals that turned its ho-hum Internet TV feature into something worth watching. I've got the details and a gallery of images to show what you get..

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One fascinating detail almost got lost in the shuffle of last week’s Windows 7 launch. Microsoft flipped the switch on some partner deals that turned its ho-hum Internet TV feature into something worth watching – in every sense of the word. (Full disclosure: One of Microsoft’s primary TV network partners is CBS, which also happens to own ZDNet’s parent, CBS Interactive.) [Update: As several readers have noted in both comments and private e-mails, this feature is currently available only in the United States. I will confirm with Microsoft whether they have plans to make similar features available in other markets.]

The Internet TV icon was present in pre-release versions of Windows 7, but mostly it delivered short clips and promos. With the final release, the Internet TV icon includes full episodes of a surprising number of classic and current series from CBS, PBS, and other partners.

How does it work? See my screenshot gallery for a visual walk-through

On the CBS page, for example, you’ll find full episodes of the current series CSI:Miami, NUMB3RS, Accidentally On Purpose, and How I Met Your Mother. I also found all three seasons of Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone, in glorious black and white. I think I saw MacGyver there, too, but didn’t have the strength to click that link. If you’re a PBS fan, you can gorge yourself on Nova episodes.

Setting up Internet TV was a very quick two-step process. The first step install the Media Center application that downloads and displays listings. The second component is a Flash viewer (not Silverlight?) that gets installed when you first try to view a program from the Internet TV pane.

In my limited testing, the streaming quality was pretty good, but not great. On a laptop screen, the picture was easy to watch, with no noticeable glitches. On a 24-inch 1080p screen, the degradation in quality was noticeable. I suspect only a diehard fan who missed an episode of their favorite series would bother trying to watch these low-res signals on a 50-inch-plus HDTV screen. There’s no charge for any of the content. Each full episode includes a handful of short ads - far fewer than those found in a network broadcast. I couldn’t find any obvious fast-forward capability to zap through those ads.

I was able to set up Internet TV on PCs running Windows 7 with and without regular TV tunes. The Internet TV feature was not available on a Media Center extender, however, which isn’t surprising given the Flash-based player that powers the feature. I also couldn’t save the episodes for offline watching, although I’m sure there are workarounds for that.

The gold rush is on for Internet-based TV, with Hulu and Tivo and Apple all experimenting with different ways of signing partnership deals, delivering content, and charging viewers for the privilege. If Microsoft is smart, it will iterate the Internet TV feature quickly, adding content partners, improving picture and audio quality, and figuring out how to make the content portable.

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Windows

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48 comments
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  • Hmmm can't see it

    I only have recorded and live TV choices. Is this location specific (in Australia)?
    tonymcs@...
    • Here's your solution to the "missing" Internet TV in Win 7.

      See the reply from "Star007" at the end.

      http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/w7itpromedia/thread/b6260110-ba5a-4ced-828d-d4540fb2dd0d

      You do have to wait a minute or two for the downloads to complete...but it WILL work. I had the same issue, and this fixed it.
      IT_Guy_z
  • ABC Aust already has an OS neutral version

    Is this just a browserless version of streamed Flash video? The Australian national broadcaster, ABC, has had such a feature for quite some time, and it runs in any browser that suppports an appropriate version of Flash. You don't need Windows to do it:

    <URL: http://www.abc.net.au/ >

    Follow the link above and select the iView button.

    Why would CBS want to limit their audience to Windows 7 Media Center users? Perhaps by producing the shows in Flash video, they can stream them to any Flash client, so this may not be a "Windows 7 MC only" service.
    Fred Fredrickson
  • news? lol...

    we in linux already have program called Miro and what is "new" in windows, we use for years.
    windows xp users also have a bunch of programs that are capable of watching internet TV

    so there is no actual news here. articles like this one is just hidden advertising of windows 7, and zdnet should stop this practice.

    SAY IT'S AN AD!!
    ljenux-23043766007667558234416105604265
    • Good for you

      ...and it amazes me that Ed is always called out for "advertising" Windows features when his job is to cover the Windows beat. Stop your trolling.

      There have been all sorts of services for all sorts of platforms, but he is just telling us that Internet TV within Media Center is available to us now.
      djmik
      • Just don't tell him

        Just don't tell him that Miro has been available on Microsoft Windows for years.
        Loverock Davidson
        • why are you breathing?

          you are stealing precious air from humans, animals and bacteria
          ljenux-23043766007667558234416105604265
          • don't forget the rust

            Rust and fires have needs, too.
            pgit
    • Horse droppings

      linix has the same options for Internet based TV as everyone else and I've been using them on a wiindows based system too.

      Go spew your nonsense somewhere else.
      ICUR12
  • RE: Internet TV goes live on Windows 7 Media Center

    Ed,
    Will this be available on Vista Media Center?
    Thanks.
    Bert
    riverab@...
  • RE: Internet TV goes live on Windows 7 Media Center

    Once again Vista gets shut out.

    Got ripped off and spent all of that money for the supposed Bell's and thrill's for the extra's that MS stated would be coming for Vista.

    Now I'm supposed to Spend 200 to upgrade to Windows 7....yadda yadda .
    algzdnet
  • Sort of sad...

    There is so little news in the Linux world that they spend all of their time reading Windows blogs and trolling. Even on the day a new version of Ubuntu is being released, they are all here trolling Windows news items.

    "My OS have lot of program to see Internet TV many year."

    Yeah, so does Windows... Who cares? Are they really so daft that they don't realize this? The news is that it's built-into the OS now, not a program you download. *sigh* People.
    BillDem
  • Curses to those downloaders

    While the rest of us are exploring Windows TV, those
    dastardly devils are simply going to their favorite torrent
    sites and grabbing high definition .mkv files of every tv show
    that airs within a few days of its being there. Then they just
    build an archive on their computers of all those shows; full
    libraries of Family Guy and South Park. Every episode of all
    seasons of Big Bang Theory. Viewable any time in glorious
    high def, no commercials, no annoyances.
    HollywoodDog
  • I think you are all missing the point...

    Ed's point was that its built into Media center, which means that you can control it on your couch using your media center remote, its like on demand TV, just thru the internet, I watched a couple of episodes on it the other day and it was great.

    I wonder why they dont use silverlight though, I watched a football game over the weekend and it was impressive and in Hi-Def.
    NoThomas
    • Silverlight ...

      The NetFlix service through WMC is using Silverlight.
      mckenzl
      • Why flash not silverlight?

        Right. Given that, isn't it strange that MS used flash for internet TV? Perhaps it is a function of repackaging flash videos from third parties?
        DWAnderson
        • I was thinking...

          maybe its because its what CBS, and the other stations have available on their website. They are only broadcasting it in flash.

          I was not sure how I would like Siverlight though until I saw that football game.
          NoThomas
    • Don't have HD but . . .

      I can watch HD through WMC via XBox360 on my SD TV! Obviously, it's being converted on the fly, but the picture is still awesome and wide screen (my JVC 32" is a good tube tv with wide screen capability).
      stano360
  • Still the bandwidth problem.

    I tried watc.................(buffering).........ing a few of the......(buffering)..........se internet TV sour........(buffering...........ces but found it wasn't ............ (buffering).... worth the effort.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • No_Ax_to_Grind

      I think thats the first time I've laughed at something you've said without secretly crying on the inside.
      Joe-Taylor-7