NRK makes one of the world’s largest Media Center services

Main Page

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation has just released it’s comprehensive service for media center PCs. First out is Windows Media Center Edition. The service makes NRK’s vast archive of content on the net available from a GUI that is tailored for use on a TV with navigation through a remote.

Users get access to more than 20 000 video clips and 12 radio channels with three weeks of archive on the main channels. This is one of the most comprehensive services ever made for Windows Media Center’s Online Spotlight broadband portal.

Microsoft Media Center Edition was choosen because it is the first media center to be released in a version for the Norwegian market. Based on the experience from this service NRK will explore possibilities for adding support for systems like Apple Front Row, Mediaportal, MythTV, Beyond Media and Meedio.

TV Page

The TV main menu. Most of NRK’s own productions are available minutes after they have been broadcasted. Many of them are indexed in detail. This gives the user a possibility to jump directly to the most interesting parts.

Radio Page

The radio page gives detailed information on the three main channels. Including playing now / next and information on the current show. For these channels an archive is available with all shows broadcasted for the last three weeks. In addition to this nine more channels are available for streaming. Currently the streaming is done with several different qualities. The best one is 160 kbps Windows Media Audio. This gives better quality than current FM broadcasts and is even better than most DAB broadcasts.

Weather

In addition to the streaming media services a small weather service has been added. It gives detailed weather information for all counties in Norway. The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation will explore more services like this as well. News, sports results and other text / image based services that already exist on NRKs extensive services on the net and for mobile phones will be considered.

A special web page has been set up to give the users information and a possibility to comment and provide suggestions. You can find this page here (Norwegian).

NRK makes one of the world’s largest Media Center services

36 thoughts on “NRK makes one of the world’s largest Media Center services

  1. Trond says:

    I suppose it is no problem to make it work for other HTPC applications using Windows since it is just a webpage. But since NRK is using microsoft codecs for audio/video, I suppose it may be a problem for other OS.

  2. Yes. Cory has an important point. And the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation are following open alternatives closely.

    These are complex issues involving questions about DRM, usability, video quality, cost of encoding, huge amounts of trade unions, representatives from the music industry and so on.

    Cory’s editorial clarifies many of the questions. It will help making people understand the problem of content actually being controlled by third parties.

    Both Apple and Microsoft are currently trying to take control of huge amounts of content out there.

  3. Jonathan says:

    This is a most amazing mistake by a public institution. If I did not otherwise admire and respect the Norwegian people as I do, I would be forced to conclude that either the officials involved it the deal were bribed, or that they simply did not understand what they were doing. I hope it was the latter, but that does not make the situation any better.

    It is too late now for Norway. Let us be vigilant to prevent this happening again in another country.

  4. Hal B. Sure says:

    The inability of people to see the problems with this astounds me. People have become so accepting of the monopoly, that they can’t grasp how great things would be if competition was allowed to thrive. Instead, people seem thrilled with the governments forcing mediocrity and extra charges/bills down their throats.

  5. Considering Norway has a fairly bright group @ viewstart.com who are putting out some of the best quality streaming video (Flash based; small file size; and instant start with large pixel/canvas), it’s just bizarre they went with an archaic model. Just wish viewstart.com was offering a consumer-based encoding product…

    (no affiliation with viewstart.com — just like their product).

  6. Holger Nordquist says:

    This is a remarkable blunder by the NBC decisionmakers. Even if they plan to change things later, this current step makes them look very shortsighted and not very astute. I guess even in great countries like Norway there are pockets of incompetence.

  7. Tresmak I. Baken says:

    The streaming is fast enough even here in the USA, where I have watched NRK TV through their WIndows Media Player browser plugin.

    I really want to try this feature out on my Media Center Edition PC, but I guess since I don’t run the Norwegian locale, the NRK link doesn’t show up in my “Online Spotlight” menu.

    I tried fooling with the Registry settings HKLMSOFTWAREMicrosoftMedia CenterSettingsMCE.GlobalSettings “systemGeoID” (changed it to 0xAE (174) which I *think* is the number for Norway and “systemGeoISO2” to “NO” which was just a guess. So far, no dice. Anyone else outside of Norway tried to get NRK show up in their “Online Spotlight”?

    For now I guess I am stuck with their in-the-browser player (which can still be set to Zoom=FullScreen)

    Thanks

  8. As far as I know it is very easy to get access to this service. Set the language in Internet Explorer to Norwegian (NO), and you should have Norwegian online spotlight. No registry hacking needed.

    Please let me know if you have problems. The service is not tied to Norway and should work all over the world.

  9. Funky Hannes says:

    I have always thought of Norway as a country where political decisions cannot be bought by the highest bidder. Incompetence exists everywhere, but I am certain that this decision was the result of corruption. I mean, it should be pretty obvious that using a format that Microsoft controls is not in the interest of the taxpayers. How much did the the people in charge get under the table from Microsoft to make this decision? I reckon it must have been a lot, because Norway is not exactly known as the poorhouse of Northern Europe.

  10. The decition to use Windows Media Video as the streaming format for the first internet based services from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation was taken several years ago. Long before the release of this new frontend tailored for a Media Center Experience.

    The decition was taken based on the technology available at that time. It was based on an evaluation of quality vs. bandwith usage, cost of encoding, ease of use, availability of DRM and several other factors. None of them being bribery.

    The discussion that Cory has brought back to life has been an ongoing discussion in Norway and it is an important one. The general opinion of the NRK is to support open standards. New standards are constantly being evaluated. Despite the fact that DRM in general has its serious flaws there are still several content owners that refuse the broadcasters to distribute content unless they can guarantee some kind of DRM. Regardless of either the broadcasters like it or not, it’s something they have to deal with.

  11. Tresmak I. Baken says:

    As far as I know it is very easy to get access to this service. Set the language in Internet Explorer to Norwegian (NO), and you should have Norwegian online spotlight. No registry hacking needed.

    I Remote Desktopped into my home computer from work to try this out. It worked like a charm! Thanks for the help. I can’t wait to use this new interface!

    One complaint I had about the old in-the-browser plugin is that their WMP player didn’t imbed properly into Firefox. You couldn’t get the right-click context window needed to set Zoom=FullScreen. So I would always have to jump over to the Opera browser anytime I wanted to watch some NRK.

    I will stay out of the DRM discussion for now.

    I just want to say I appreciate that NRK has made their content available
    to this American who is trying to learn to speak Norwegian. NRK NET-TV and the NRK Radio P1 and P2 shoutcast streams have helped me continue along that journey.

  12. Very nice. I know that the DRM discussion is important, but in general we’ve had huge amounts of positive feedback on this service. It’s encouraging that we have people in other parts of the world that use it!

    If you use the feature under “Innstillinger” in the NRK-interface to make a shortcut to NRK that will place itself under “More programs” you can switch back to US Online Spotlight and keep NRK under “More programs”.

  13. When NRK started out all media was in the Real format, also a proprietary format but nonetheless available on more platforms than Windows Media is now. Real was dropped because of its licencingprices, at the time they demanded something like 500000 NOK for their servers, and absurd amount. Over a few years Windows media surpassed Real in codec quality, and certainly in its price structure, and the switch was gradually made. Some of the news sources where available on Real for quite some time. But since then, all video and radio on demand has been windows only. Most of the radio channels are available as streaming mp3 and ogg thought.

    What NRK has done is nothing radical, they have simply skinned their on demand video and sound for Media Center, nothing more. It is still available on the web, as freely as ever.

    I agree that the choice of windows only is unfortunate, but as Eirik says this is for historical and economical reasons, nothing else. The price to make all the content available in duplicate formats would be astronomical, and I honestly don’t think the norwegian tax payers would be willing to pay extra for it. Still, over time, it WILL be made available on more formats, like the 3G/mp4 content now available on mobiles (including live streaming of the two tv-channels in norway). This format is NOT freely available, and its DRMd to high heaven, so I honestly doesn’t see the connection between Windows media DRM being bad, and Mpeg4 DRM being good.

    DRM is necessary on NRKs content. It doesn’t matter if the content “already is paid for” like the moron on BoingBoing wrote, as long as the rights for making it available on the web is not included in that price. Clearing the use for background music for a documentary for tv is expensive and, well, hard, and even harder is clearing the use of artwork, or live performances, and that is clearance for on demand streaming with DRM. If you want the same content available in numerous platforms, including download, you are entering a whole new ballgame of rights clearance hell.

    Still, NRK IS working on a download service, for audio, for music, and possible even for video, they have done small steps towards thumbnailing video in flash, and they provide occacional downloads of mp3. In the coming month they will also add to their podcasting service, which now consists of two feeds. And then there is the larger project where they work with the national library, among others, to provide access to content that is cleared for such use, I don’t know what format they use as a basis in that project, I belive it is mpeg2, the last time I heard.

    So other formats are coming.

  14. If you use the feature under “Innstillinger” in the NRK-interface to make a shortcut to NRK that will place itself under “More programs” you can switch back to US Online Spotlight and keep NRK under “More programs”.

    Works perfectly.

    From the original blog entry:

    Many of them are indexed in detail. This gives the user a possibility to jump directly to the most interesting parts.

    I used this feature while watching the “Tre brødre…”. It’s like going straight to a certain chapter on a DVD, but this is within a TV episode. Very nice.

    Tusen takk for hjelpen!

  15. The link will not get you anywhere. The service in its current state only works in MCE. A direct link will take you to a page telling you to use the regular Web-TV and internet radio from the NRK.

    All the same content are available there:

    Radio: NRK Nettradio
    TV: NRK Nett-TV

    The MCE type of user interface for this content is currently MCE only, but the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation are looking into versions for other media center platforms.

  16. marius says:

    For some reason I’m not able to view the NRK online spotlight. I only seem to get some offline content with tips on how to get the most out of Windows Media Center. Before i updated to rollup2 I got lots of english services… What’s wrong? I have set the language to norwegian in the Internet Explorer language settings.

    Could you give me the direct link to the NRK spotlight service so I can put the link directly in the registry…?

  17. […] [Edit 18/10: I’m not sure I’ve read enough about this, to be honest – I can’t find the actual media archive online, and rereading this third party account it sounds as though it’s meant for viewing through a TV not a computer. And of course I should research it properly before writing about it, but well, sorry, didn’t have and don’t have time. It seems like a topic worth someone investigating though…] NRK put huge amounts of television content online. I payed for that content to be made, along with generations of other Norwegian tax-payers and licence fee papers. But I can’t access it easily, because they’ve locked it up in Microsoft’s DRM (Digital Rights Management) so that my Mac struggles to access it. If they’d released the content in an open format (and they could still, say, limit use to Norway by blocking IP-numbers outside the country if they wanted [edit 18/10: they don’t, to my knowledge, do this now, though I’ve never been able to play their web TV on my Mac]) I could access the content. […]

  18. marius says:

    I figured out my problem. Seems it doesn’t support the Norwegian Nynorsk language setting. You have to set the language to Norwegian Bokmal (no) for both the guide and the online spotlights to work properly…

  19. Morten Skogly Says:
    “DRM is necessary on NRKs content. It doesn’t matter if the content “already is paid for” like the moron on BoingBoing wrote, as long as the rights for making it available on the web is not included in that price.”

    Why do you insist on name calling in a forum that has otherwise been conducted in a respectful manner? Whatever argument someone puts forward, even if you do not agree with it, you should not feel that it’s o.k. to call them a moron. The internet is already full of people, who for various reasons, lack the decency and respect necessary to carry on a respectful and civil conversation. Most of us learned how to act in public during elementary school, and I mean no disrespect when I say that, but please try to keep your emotions in check when posting in any public forum.

    Thank you,
    vargusvictor

  20. […] So what’s all this API stuff anyway? So what’s these two pictures? The one to the left is NRK’s official service for Windows Media Center Online Spotlight. The one to the right is a very unofficial NRK media center plugin for Meedio. As mentioned in my post about Webshots and Flickr, one of the reasons why Flickr succeed is because they have a powerful open API. I have linked the acronym API to Wikipedia for the people that want to know more. The quick version: API is short for Application Programming Interface. It gives programmers a possibility to build new services on top of the service that provides an API. Google provides an API. In other words: people can build new services on top of Google. An example is the classic google fight. […]

  21. Andreas says:

    Thanks, that got me a bit further. I get ‘No Services Found’ under online media.

    After Googling this issue it seems there is something wrong with the installation. There is supposed to be some files under programdataMicrosofteHomePackages. My folder is empty.

    So now I am trying to figure out how to get hold of these files without going through a complete reinstall.

    Suggestions?

  22. I’m currently not running Windows Media Center edition on any of my boxes. I switched to Mac and EyeTV a while ago. So I’m afraid I can’t be of much help at this point.

  23. Andreas says:

    Thanks for your reply Erik, it helped me realize that there was something wrong with my setup.

    Some Googling resolved the issue. The final clue was on
    http://thegreenbutton.com/forums/3/299351/ShowThread.aspx

    Removed the file C:ProgramDataMicrosofteHomemediacenterdatastore.db, restarted MCE and after a while things started working.

    Right now I am watching Søndagsrevyen 🙂 Some issues in the layout of the pages in MCE but other than that things are fine! Keep up the good work here and at nrkbeta!

    BTW, I saw an article in the OBOS magazine a while back about hiding away all electronic components. Is that online anywhere?

    Have now just refurbished my appartment. Placed the PC, the Canal Digital decoder, PS3 etc. in the server room with the TV in the living room.

    Have a Logitech Harmony 895 with RF extender to control the TV and decoder. Works just fine. The next thing is to find a good way to control the MCE wirelessly.

    Also looking for a TV mount that has full motion and can carry my 46″ Sharp. Have a B-Tech 8412 but it is too big and places my TV more than 15cm from the wall when folded flat. Looked at the Sanus VMAA26 but the Norwegian reseller does not take this model to Norway. Considering Vogel’s. The 6455 RC has a motor and looks cool but can only angle 45 degrees on the wall. Seems the EFW 6455 may be an option.

    The next thing to solve is how to handle audio/surround. Considering BOSE V30 and connecting the PC, decoder etc to that. Maybe this would be overkill. Are there viable options using the PC to drive the audio experience?

    Andreas

  24. I don’t think the OBOS-article is online. My main solution is well ventilated cabinets in the living room (we don’t have space for a server room).

    My audio solution is an amplifier from Pioneer, digtal audio out of my Mac and a set of speakers from Anthony Gallo. The Gallos are a perfect combination of quality and design.

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