Students have been using Netflix to distract themselves from homework since the launch of its streaming service in 2007. But now, Boston College students can use a similar streaming service to complete their homework.
BC Cable has launched a new movie streaming service—movies.bc.edu—that allows professors to upload films required for their courses.
Before the website, the established practice was for each professor to schedule a time for the movie to play on one of BC Cable’s seven channels. Students would have to tune in to an on-campus television to that channel at that time. The new method of programming is a more realistic requirement for students who have grown up in an on-demand culture.
“It’s whatever’s good for you,” associate director of BC Media and Technology Services Darren Herlihy said. “If you’re free at two in the morning, then go ahead and watch it then.”
The site is increasing in popularity among the faculty, Herlihy noted, now that the service has been around for a year.
“They really like the fact that students can basically watch this whenever they want, rather than the scheduled times on one of the channels.”
BC Cable launched a pilot program last academic year as a cautionary pursuit.
“We didn’t want 500 students going on to the site at once and finding out that the network couldn’t handle it, [but] we never had a problem with the server going down or the service going down last year.”
The online streaming network is a product provided by Swank Motion Pictures, a motion picture distributor that, according to its website, is the leader in its field.
Every movie shown on cable television is categorized by the Federal Communications Commission as a public performance. Therefore, copyright fees applied to every movie that BC Cable sought to air.
About 20 years ago, individual departments had to pay copyright fees for every movie they showed in class. After this method fostered obvious budget issues within the academic departments, BC Cable turned to Swank, which owns the rights to 90 percent of Hollywood’s featured films, as well as several international films.
The company’s long-standing contract with BC Cable is what made the streaming service possible. Swank developed the service and brought the necessary hardware to BC’s campus, dwindling the development responsibilities of BC Cable down to installing a piece of hardware into BC’s existing network and designing a website with a BC seal.
Swank uploads requested movies remotely from its headquarters in St. Louis, Mo. Faculty members have an array of films to use to teach their courses, and students can complete these assignments on their own time.
The new, innovative streaming service is not the only upgrade BC Cable has undertaken in the past year. In August, BC Cable upgraded its 70-channel cable network to an entirely High Definition service, with the exception of the seven BC channels. While students might notice that every numbered channel from last year changed, Herlihy thinks the student body will be excited to have a full HD service at their disposal.
In addition to the HD upgrade, the new online streaming service received a small improvement after its freshman year. The website is now available on a tablet or smartphone—previously, the service was limited to a desktop or laptop computer.
Herlihy noted only two drawbacks with the service. First, due to copyright laws, the website can only be accessed while on BC’s campus, using a BC IP address. Second, while Swank Motion Pictures is the biggest corporation in its field, there are some movies that it does not own the rights to.
“Knock on wood,” Herlihy said. “It’s been a rock-solid service.”