Jan-Lukas Else

Thoughts of an IT expert

How I archive my favorite TV show to get rid of Amazon Prime

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Short link: https://b.jlel.se/s/679

I’m a fan of the German TV series “Notruf Hafenkante”, which is shown on the public broadcaster ZDF and is also available on their website. New episodes are released weekly, and older episodes are also made available on a regular basis. After a few months, however, they are no longer available for free. At the moment I have to buy an extra subscription for a Prime Video Channel to be able to watch all the old episodes. But that makes me dependent on Amazon, and I don’t like that.

So is there a way to archive them? But for a cheap price? And that I can still stream them on my Chromecast with Google TV?

I found a way…

Using the “MediathekViewWeb”, it’s possible to get the URL to the videos available in the “ZDF Mediathek”. From there, I can search for the series or a single episode and either download the episode or copy the download link, which looks like this:


It seems that ZDF is a customer of the CDN provider Akamai.

With this link, I continue on my rented virtual private server, which has a much faster Internet connection than I have at home. But I could do the following steps without a VPS.

Scaleway, a European cloud provider, seems to be building a portfolio of services to offer an alternative to Amazon Web Services. They offer virtual private servers (I prefer Hetzner though, they are cheaper), hosted Kubernetes, Functions as a Service, but also object storage with a cold storage tier (Glacier) which is quite cheap. It currently costs about 0.002 Euro per GB per month. 1000 GB is about 2 Euro per month. I don’t think it saves much to buy physical disks, and the files are probably safer in the Paris underground bunker.

I created a Scaleway object storage bucket and configured it with a lifecycle policy to automatically move new files from the standard storage tier (which is a bit more expensive than Glacier) to Glacier after one day. And I configured the rclone tool on my VPS to add Scaleway as a new S3-compatible remote storage location.

rclone is a pretty handy tool for uploading files to or between different online storage providers. It has also helped me with my cloud storage migrations in the past, and I use it to upload my daily server backups to an S3 bucket on Scaleway.

I recently discovered that rclone can not only upload local files or files from other remotes, but it can also take a URL and upload it directly to the target remote. So all I have to do to upload the series episode to the storage bucket is use this command:

rclone --config rclone.conf copyurl --progress URL_TO_THE_EPISODE scaleway:/myarchivebucket/episode.mp4

If I want to watch the episode and it hasn’t already been moved to Glacier, I can just generate a public link, copy it to the VLC app on my phone, and select to play it on my Chromecast. If the file has already been moved to cold storage, I have to restore it to standard storage and wait a bit (often it’s only about a minute).

If I keep archiving every new episode and every old episode that becomes available again, I’ll probably have the entire series collection in a few months and be able to unsubscribe from the Prime Video channel. And maybe cancel Amazon Prime altogether. 😄

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Jan-Lukas Else
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