Subscribing to TED Talks in HD with TiVo

When you burn out on the TV wasteland and want some actual brain food, podcast junkies will tell you that one of the most reliable sources of high-quality content is the seemingly bottomless series of TED Talks. Brilliant minds in every topic field, from recycling to neuroscience, reefs to religion, get 5-15 minutes to hold forth, bend your brain, and make you a better person. TED has expanded beyond its roots, and TED talks are now held all over the world at satellite conferences, meaning there’s an endless supply of great content. The site graciously provides the talks as archived video, always available.

TED’s not a cable channel, but its content is accessible via RSS. If you’re a TiVo user, you’ve got a two-part problem: 1) How to get something akin to a TED Talks “Season Pass,” so you always have access to recent stuff, and 2) How to get the talks in HD format, since standard-def internet content looks horrible on an HD TV.

Update: TiVo actually responded in the comments below that, because of this blog, they’ve made a change to the menu options in the TiVo itself. So getting hi-def TED talks on TiVo is now much easier. Here are their instructions:

We’ve made this a bit easier by making these official feeds listed in the UI. You can now find both the feeds by going to the Free Videos section and selecting the TED entries under the Entertainment and Technology category. If you have an HD unit, you’ll get the HD feed automatically.

My original instructions are preserved below in case they’re useful for anyone.

Modify these instructions as needed for Google TV, Apple TV, Roku, PS3, or whatever device you have that supports RSS subscriptions.

To subscribe to RSS podcast feeds on TiVo:

  1. Go to Video on Demand
  2. Go to Free VOD and Web Videos
  3. At the very bottom of that list, find “Custom RSS Feeds”
  4. Select Add a New RSS Feed

Now the question is what URL to enter for the RSS feed. If you search the innertubes for “TED Talks RSS” you’ll probably come up with http://feeds.feedburner.com/tedtalks_video. That’s the standard-def feed – don’t use it! You want the feed that references the high-def version of the videos, which is mysteriously hidden from public view. What you want to enter is this:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/tedtalksHD

Videos embedded in this feed are a generous 1000-some pixels wide, in contrast to the 400-some pixels of the standard feed. They’re not glorious, but definitely glorious-er!

After completing your subscription, you’ll be able to browse the feed and download the programs you want. No, it’s not like a desktop RSS reader, and therefore not exactly like Season Pass – you won’t get all the latest content automatically downloaded and ready to watch – you’ll have to actively vist from time to time to and select the items from the feed that you actually intend to view. To get to the feed menu to periodically refresh your subscription:

  1. Go to Video on Demand
  2. Go to Free VOD and Web Videos
  3. At the very bottom of that list, find “Custom RSS Feeds”
  4. Select TEDTalks (hd)
  5. Select Past Programs
  6. Scroll through the list and click Download for each program you want

Yep, a bit laborious and manual compared to the usual Season Pass method (or standard RSS subscription for that matter), but you’ll be rewarded with awesome content, in much higher resolution than the standard TED stream. Dig!

Hat tip to Eugenia for tipping me off to the existence of the HD feed.

11 thoughts on “Subscribing to TED Talks in HD with TiVo

  1. Brent

    Rockin cool Scot, thanks !!!

    Here are the instructions for adding it to ROKU. Although I haven’t verified that it was created with the HD stream, I did send the developer an email asking and sending him the HD RSS in case it’s not.

    TED Talks on ROKU:
    1. Log-into your Roku account, and go here: https://owner.roku.com/account/channelcode
    2. Enter this code: WSW1P
    3. Now go to the “Channel Store” on your Roku player, then in the My Channels menu, you’ll see the added channels at the end.
    4. To remove a channel, you will need to select it from within the “My Channels” menu of ROKU and then click “Delete this channel”.

    If there’s an update to this channel, I’ll come back and notify you guys.

    Thanks and cheers!
    Brent

  2. shacker Post author

    Cool – thanks for the Roku tips Brent. Yeah, I’d be curious to hear whether Roku gives you the HD stream automatically, or lets you do a URL override if not.

  3. Brent

    Great. Yeah no problem. Sorry about the added static to the comments. Another note for ROKU owners. Adding channels can take anywhere from 10mins to a few hours to show up on your device, so be patient.

    Peace out & Aloha! :D

    ps: Good to have the blog back, Scot! I have recently fell back out of the twitter river myself. After ignoring it for 2 weeks, I just felt drown by the thought of jumping back in that river of 144 chars. I’m now on a low-info diet and TED fits right into it.

  4. Brent

    HAAH ha yeah :D I meant to say low-news diet. I agree, I want high-info too. It’s our national media which is giving me indigestion.

  5. Stephen Mack

    Hey Scot, thanks for posting this. Thanks to you, we’ve made this a bit easier but making these official feeds listed in the UI. You can now find both the feeds by going to the Free Videos section and selecting the TED entries under the Entertainment and Technology category. If you have an HD unit, you’ll get the HD feed automatically. Let me know if you see any problems! Thanks, Stephen

  6. Matt

    Am I doing something wrong? When I add the above code as a private channel, the site tells me that it’s “Archive Classic Movies” (public domain classic movies), and that’s what shows up on my Roku.

    Haven’t tried Tivo yet.

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