Like most of my projects, Schmooze.TV (formerly Easyschmooze) was born out of necessity. Downloading TV shows from the internet was hard work. It meant keeping up with prime-time schedules of my favorite shows and then scouring the net the day after they air for a digital copy. Kudos to the networks for finally letting users stream episodes from their website, but it’s still a pain in the ass. Every network has their own crappy Flash site for viewing — the video stream isn’t high-def and, worse, it keeps me tied to my browser window. There’s no way to watch them on my flat-screen in the living room. (Scratch that. It looks like Boxee + Hulu support may change everything.)
What about iTunes? I’m willing to pay for commercial-free shows. How does the math work out? Well, at $1.99 an episode, season three of Grey’s Anatomy costs $52. Luckily, you can buy the whole season at once (like a DVD box set) for $35. That’s nice, but it’s still six dollars more expensive than buying the DVD’s from Amazon. Don’t get me started on the whole DRM issue. So what’s the next alternative?
BitTorrent, maybe? I could use some sort of broadcatching setup — automatically download the shows via BitTorrent using an RSS feed. That worked great two years ago, but now Comcast is actively slowing down BitTorrent traffic. That leaves one solution. Usenet.
Usenet - the last unmoderated bastion of the internet. Luckily, Easynews, a $10/month Usenet provider, automatically decodes and offers up newsgroup binaries over the web. All that’s left is automating the downloads.
And that’s where Schmooze.TV fits in. Schmooze.TV takes an Easynews search, scrapes the results, and returns a podcast — which is really just an RSS feed with attachments. Any RSS reader (NetNewsWire, iTunes, etc) can use these feeds to automatically download the attached files. In my specific case, I’ve created Schmooze.TV RSS feeds for my favorite shows. Every half-hour, the Mac mini attached to my flat-screen checks these feeds for new episodes and downloads them in the background.
Schmooze also provides image previews and episode listings for all your shows. Plus, it keeps track of which ones you’ve watched and which are new.
It’s like TiVo - without the TiVo.
(A fun side effect: Because I’m on the West coast, popular shows like Lost are downloaded and available before they even air out here!)