Practical Technology

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BBC Shows come to iTunes Store UK


Usually, it’s the Europeans who are left lagging behind the U.S. when it comes to Apple’s latest offerings. Not this time. The real word doesn’t come out until tomorrow but if you’re in the UK and you open up your iTunes Store, you’ll find that the BBC is now delivering some of its TV shows to Apple TV and video iPod customers.

According to the TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog), the UK Apple iTunes store is already selling episodes of popular BBC television shows. The selection, as of the night of February 18th, Torchwood, Spooks, The Mighty Boosh, Life on Mars, The Catherine Tate Show, Two Pints of Lager, a Packet of Crisps, and Little Britain. Each episode will cost £1.89.

If you’re in the States, you’re out of luck. Darn it.

Color me green with envy. I’ve been wanting a way to get BBC TV shows into my U.S.-based television with Apple TV since it was called iTV. Of course, I can still see the shows by downloading them off BitTorrent sites, but that method has multiple problems.

Besides being in a gray area of the law, you’re never guaranteed that what someone says is the latest episode of Doctor Who is actually the newest episode, or an episode of Dr. Who, or, indeed, video content at all. Presuming that you do get the real thing, which is fairly likely, you’re then faced with the problem of transforming the video from its native format into one that Apple TV can show.

Over time, I’ve put together a collection of tools that do a great job of translating programs into Apple TV-compatible MP4 formats. But, even now, I still run into problems. Some video formats won’t translate. Other will translate, but the TVs or movies lose video/audio lock. Other files will say that they’re one format, but they’re actually are another. I could go on, and I will sometime soon in articles about how to translate from one format to another, but the bottom line is that it’s not easy and they’re no simple one translation program that really works well.

What would be better, far, far better, would be if I could just download and play iTunes episodes of my favorite Brit TV shows. Well, for now, I’m still stuck. Even so, now that the BBC is bringing video to its UK customers, I can hope that soon—very, very soon—Apple and the BBC will be letting American customers enjoy British television in our living rooms.

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