blinkbox: Top Gear and Doctor Who available for download. Again

You can always tell when BBC Worldwide is dipping its toe into the tepid waters of online content licensing because suddenly there’s a new way to watch episodes of either Top Gear, Doctor Who or both. And today is no exception, with the Guardian reporting that blinkbox has done a deal to show older editions via its online streaming and download service. Episodes will cost £1.89 a pop for a download or unlimited streams.

It’s not just BBC content on blinkbox — there’s a wide variety of movies and free-to-watch TV shows too. We’ve had a quick look at a couple, and the quality is pretty decent and the ad breaks infrequent enough to make the process of watching enjoyable. Classic US TV series ER is available, as is the best TV show ever produced — The West Wing — all similarly priced to the new BBC content.

The BBC’s public-service remit means that only shows over 180 days old can appear on a service such as this. We can’t help wondering if the critics of the licence fee will once again point to this as a sign that the TV tax is overdue a radical reworking. However you look at it, selling episodes of TV programmes that appear quite regularly on Dave and the like is quite optimistic. Top Gear is also one of the most pirated TV shows on the planet, meaning the best bits are readily available to people to watch illegally for free.

Now — the rant. blinkbox has some really good content. This is, in fact, the very service we’ve been yearning for, but once again, it’s hobbled by DRM and stupid pricing. For example, the movie Watchmen costs £12 to download. You can only watch it on a PC — there’s no Mac support. The DRM means you won’t be able to watch these downloads on a media streamer such as the Popcorn Hour either.

That said, there are plenty of free shows to watch on the service, supported by advertising. We’ve just missed our deadline because of episode one of Gene Roddenberry’s Hercules in Space Andromeda. There are also programmes that aren’t made of cheese with a soft cheese centre, deep-fried in cheese.

The biggest failure of blinkbox? You have to watch those vile, planet-polluting sell-outs U2 singing their ghastly nonsense while hawking mobile phones. Seriously, is there any depth to which those talent-free frauds won’t delve to raise another couple of groats?

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