The ABC’s new rental and download to buy service might be Windows-only for the moment, but Mac users may not have to wait too long before they can also buy programs too.
Launched following an eight-month development period, ABC Shop Downloads sells a wide range of content from the ABC, from current hits such as The Chaser through to vintage programming such as Aunty Jack. In the future, the ABC also plans to add music and audiobook downloads. For $2.95, you can rent most programs for unlimited viewing within a seven day period.
The ABC is teasing the service with a handful of free downloads, including the opening episodes of Sleek Geeks, We Could Be Heroes, Kylie Kwong and Bananas In Pyjamas. (You need to register a credit card for the free downloads, but ABC publicity types promise this won’t result in any charges.)
The service was developed by local media company Hyro, and makes extensive use of Microsoft’s Flash-wannabe technology Silverlight. Users of Macs and Linux machines can preview videos, but purchasing is currently disabled (hence no free episodes either).
However, despite the close ties to Microsoft and its controversial DRM platform, developers have said that releases for the Mac are on the cards. “They are planning to move it towards Mac with Silverlight2 using PlayReady later this year,” ABC Commercial technical developer Matt Moran said at Microsoft’s Remix developer conference earlier this year.
Getting it to work will undoubtedly be fiddly. “Working with DRM is very difficult because you can't debug it,” developer Vaughan Knight, who worked on the project, said at Remix. “As soon as you try Windows Media DRM boots you out because it thinks you are trying to crack it”.
An already-available alternative for Mac users is the recently released < a href="http://apcmag.com/breaking_tv_shows_come_to_itunes_australia.htm">selection of ABC TV programming on the iTunes Australia Store. While the prices are similar, the Apple store offers a permanent download rather than a rental.
With that said, the selection is somewhat narrower. While the ABC Shop Downloads site boasts more than 250 hours of programming, by our calculations the six series currently available on iTunes total less than 22 hours. Of course, there’s plenty of non-ABC content in iTunes as well, including the imminent local launch of movie downloads.