Friday, June 5, 2015

Now maybe Yahoo! gets its act together

"Community" just finished a sixth season of episodes that was artistically successful but not technologically successful. Yahoo! Screen has always been a frustrating experience. It was bad news when the company bought digital rights to the "Saturday Night Live" library because the website's confusing interface and disorganization was sure to make finding anything a frustrating task. Guess what? It was!

I thought when Yahoo! spent some money for an actual TV series and (sort of) promoted it, the website would try to put together a decent online "channel" to showcase it. In turn, the increased traffic from the high-profile acquisition would show off the new Yahoo! Screen, enabling the company to invest more in developing it. But NOOOOOOOO!!!

Instead, Yahoo! continued its half-assed approach to the channel. My naivete continued after the first couple of episodes when I saw scores of complaints about how difficult it was to stream "Community" and I assumed the issues would be fixed. Several months later, the technical issues are still there, the interface is still terrible, and I don't know if Yahoo! has done anything to improve the situation.

I watched the series on the Roku version, with ad-free viewing that came at a price: Anytime I tried to fast-forward or rewind an episode, the channel would crash. Re-launching the channel would not return me to where I was in the episode. In fact, if I watched anytime after the new installment "dropped" on Tuesday, I'd probably not even get the episode, since Yahoo! Screen on Roku auto-launches to whatever it deems most "popular" at a given moment. The sad thing is, this lousy way to view the show was still probably better and more reliable than what most people  got watching directly on the website.

Now Yahoo! has acquired exclusive digital rights to an NFL game--granted, an uninteresting one, but a real regular season game--and I expect this will finally improve things. Sony and Dan Harmon and everyone else involved with "Community" may not have cared enough to put heat on Yahoo! to get its act together, but the NFL doesn't want any part of Amateur Hour. It's possible that Yahoo! bypasses its Screen thing and streams this game on its front page somehow, but I believe the pressure of the National Football League, which controls everything down to the socks its players wear on the field, will make Yahoo! put some effort into making a watchable "tv-like" facsimile available.

I was excited about a possible seventh season of "Community," but not so much if it would be on Yahoo! Now I'm more optimistic, and I hope Yahoo! has a few bucks left over to retain at least some of the cast members and give us another batch of episodes with the Greendale crew.

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