October 13th, 2005

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02:47 am - on the price of video on demand...

Must see
Originally uploaded by loungin.
so, I had been meaning to address this issue for the last couple of weeks. I even mentioned to rmitz that I was thinking of ranting about it when he brought up the same topic a couple weeks ago.

What would you pay for the ability to download your favorite TV shows to your computer. What about movies? Is this the future of the internet?

I don't know. I'm pretty much a media junkie. I have the big screen TV with HD satellite hook-up. I have maybe 500 DVDs. I was the first kid on my block to own a DVD player, in fact. Hell, I even have a Laser Disc player still plugged in to my entertainment center and ready to go. I'm not sure where it's going. But its there. But one thing I don't think I want to do is watch movies on my iPod. And I sure as hell am not going to watch them on my desktop computer.

Don't get me wrong. I do watch movies on my laptop on occasion. Usually when I'm on a plane or in a hotel room somewhere and without easy access to any of the three non-computer DVD players in my house that are hooked up to real TVs. But its never preferrable, its very much a "on-the-go" kinda thing. Its not something I'm gonna do all the time.

But today, Apple announced iTunes Video. Download music videos for only $1.99, or download episodes from your favorite TV shows, (so long as your favorite TV shows are "Lost," "Desperate Housewives," "That's So Raven," "Night Stalker," or "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody." Ok, fine, I'll acknowledge that the first two shows are hits, but That's So Raven? And I mean, has anybody ever even heard of the other two shows?

So much like with the $0.99 music that you can buy from apple, I'm going to ignore for a moment the possibility of downloading music for a moment, and lets just assume that the only way to get content on your computer or iPod is to pay for it. (HAHAHAHA!) It's now a question of demand utility. I watch a lot of TV. Much of it I readily admit is quite bad. But if I were bored on a football bye week sunday afternoon or something, there is the very real possibility that I might be flipping through channels and watch something like "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody", whatever it is. Afterall, I'll sometimes be bored enough on a lazy Sunday to watch 6 hours of celebrity poker or home makeover shows or something, so who knows. But there's no way I'd pay to find out. Even shows I do enjoy, like say Desperate Housewives, I'm all about watching them for free. But I'm not going to pay $1.99 to watch it every week. It's just not worth it. Maybe on the off chance that I miss a week and I'm really devoted to a show (like say I am with 24) I might be willing to download it just to watch it once, but they're promoting the fact that i can on demand watch these shows as much as I want, whenever I want. Not going to happen. I don't care enough about anything I watch to watch it over and over again, and if I do, I am fully capable of DVR'ing it or waiting for the DVD set to come out. But its extremely rare that I need this feature.

So what do I really get here? No commercials? Freedom to watch whenever I want? At the end of the day, I figure there's actually about 15 hours or so TV that I watch pretty religiously every week. If I were forced to pay for each of those shows individually we'd be talking $29.85 (in practice, at least half of those shows are 30 mins. long, so its more like $43.78) every week. $119.40($175.12) every month to watch my favorite shows over and over again. I pay about $55/month for HD satellite+DVR service. Less than half, and I get the added bonus of picking slop shows that I just catch when I'm bored. It's not even a contest. At the end of the day, I'd much rather pay for my TV with my time (watching commercials) than my wallet. I'm an American. I'm greedy.

So that brings up another interesting question. Do you hate commercials? I mean, do you really hate commercials. In the last couple years that we've had DVR service, beststephi has become very commercial adverse. I mean, I totally get fast forwarding through them when you've prerecorded something, but if we're watching TV live, beststephi would rather pause it and sit in silence for 5 minutes than listen to the commercials. Me I just don't really care. Hell, sometimes I even find them funny. But then, I'm the kinda weirdo who watches the Clio Awards whenever a network sees fit to broadcasting them. I'll accept that people don't LIKE commercials, but at the end of the day, are you willing to pay money just to avoid them. Would you pay for TiVo service if it only let you skip the commercials and didn't let you record the show to watch at your leisure? Conversely, if you are the type who is willing to pay $1.99 to download "Lost", would you be willing to pay, I don't know, $0.99 to watch it if it still had the commercials in it and no way to fast forward through them.

Eva Longoria
Eva Longoria
Yes, she's hot, but $1.99 at that size?
Am I just crazy here? I know rmitz really wants this service. Maybe there are a ton of people out there who do. If so speak up. Because I really don't see how this is all that useful. I know a few people with PSPs, and as far as I know, none of us are going out there buying movies to watch on them, even though we can. The only thing I can think of is porn. Porn can save any technology. I am certain of that. I personally don't have any great need to download porn to play on my iPod, but I have to believe someone does. I can't see paying $1.99 to have a nudie cellphone wallpaper either, but people out there do it. And until then, I guess that's what the oh so steamy "Desperate Housewives" episodes are for. Me, I like my porn the good old fashioned way. In a magazine or shipped to my door in a plain brown wrapper, the way HOVA intended it. I just can't see myself getting all hot and bothered over a 2.5 inch screen. I don't care how hot she is, no woman is worth $1.99 at 320x240 pixels. But now, anytime I see a guy walk into a public restroom while carrying an iPod, I'm gonna get grossed out and have to turn the other way.

Technology ruins something else. Thirty-five years from now, you're gonna hear old man Maverick sitting on his back porch waving his cane at the grandkids who are sneaking out behind the woodshed with their holocubes, "Damn kids today, can't even masturbate properly. Back in my day we didn't have tactile holograms, we had the Sears catalog bra section and we liked it. We liked it fine! We loved it!"

(46 comments | Leave a comment)

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[User Picture]From: rmitz Date: October 13th, 2005 - 07:28 am (Link)
This iteration of the technology is promising, but ultimately uninteresting to me. I downloaded one episode to see the quality and it sucks. I'm sure it'll look great on the iPod, but I don't care about watching on an iPod. I want to download to watch on my HDTV, not my iPod (of which I only own a shuffle for the moment, but I'll probably get the next size bump of the nano).

If I were in the states or had ready access to a convienient HDPVR solution the argument would be weaker. But as it is, it would be a lot easier to roll this type of solution out (leveraging p2p filesharing for legal use) for those people that want it.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 07:35 am (Link)
oh good... you grabbed one so i don't have to. Is it in fact at 320x240 as I was guessing (the size of the new iPod screen). I was also figuring that the quality would be pretty suckful.

You bring up another point though. And one that I was kind of trying to touch on, but i don't know that if I made it clear. I want GOOD QUALITY video. That means watching it on my HDTV. I don't want to watch it in a little tiny window on my computer at sucky compression.
From: rmitz Date: October 13th, 2005 - 07:42 am (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 08:00 am (Link)
From: rmitz Date: October 13th, 2005 - 08:07 am (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 08:10 am (Link)
[User Picture]From: nowishere Date: October 13th, 2005 - 01:41 pm (Link)
I hate commercials. Of course there are the occasional ones that are great, and now more and more frequent ones that are so strange they subject me to an experience of bewilderment that is still interesting by way of novelty, but I only find that out if I'm sitting there watching them, which I try not to.

Instead of pausing, I take commercial breaks to go cook or use the restroom or make a phone call or have a conversation. If none of those things needs to be done, I will watch 2 shows at once, having a primary and a secondary, and whenever the primary goes to commercial, I'll switch to the secondary, and check in with the primary every couple of minutes to see if it's started again. Unless I'm watching something I really want to see, then I'll leave it on during commercials no matter what, so I don't miss anything, cuz you can't rewind to something that you weren't on that station when it was on real-time.

Is that iPod picture you used supposed to be a picture of tv on the iPod or of a bunch of iPods? Which is the supposedly interesting or sweet point (to the photographer / intended audience, I mean)?
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 01:49 pm (Link)
yeah, steph does that sometimes too... flipping between 2 shows. I hate that, because I'm always afraid there'll be someting I missed.

the ipod picture is just showing the evolution of the iPod I think. Though one of them (3rd from the right) does have video playing on it. I just needed a good picture. I suppose I could have just put Eva Longoria being hot up there. Would that have been better?
[User Picture]From: sui66iy Date: October 13th, 2005 - 01:59 pm (Link)
So, I don't know if TiVo is the right thing to compare this to. There are other candidate competitors. One is buying the DVD of the TV show. On that score, it would cost $48 to get the whole first season of Lost from Apple (not that you can right now, but it's plausible that you will one day). On the other hand, you could buy the DVD set of the series from Amazon for $38.99 plus shipping, or driving to Best Buy. The advantage of the DVD is quality, and a slight edge in price. The big advantage of iTunes is the impulse factor: you don't have to wait until they bring it out on DVD. In fact, you can incrementally download episodes of Lost during the season. For fanboys, this might actually be a big deal.

Another candidate competitor is BitTorrent. Just to do the experiment (and shame on you for ranting without ponying up $2 for Science!), I downloaded the first ep of Night Stalker from Apple last night. On my lowest-possible-end DSL line, it took 45 minutes to download. The episode runs 43:28, so it's darn near real time --- they could almost stream it if they wanted to. The other week I downloaded a missed episode of Battlestar Galactica off BitTorrent. It took many hours, and BG is a best-case scenario for BitTorrent. (Also, you can't even in principle stream BitTorrent because it downloads the blocks out of order.)

On the other hand, BitTorrent is free. So, would I pay $2 for legality, convenience of finding the content, and speed? Absolutely. This is the same reason I use iTMS rather than LimeWire.

Now, for the quality issue, I'll probably evaluate that later tonight. I don't hold with the HD fetish; it's nice and all, but it doesn't transform my entertainment experience all that much. But I'm interested to see how the Apple content looks once it's been pumped through S-video. Certainly the MPEG-2 artifacts from normal-def TiVo are quite visible on my projector. Is Apple worse or comparable? It certainly seems to be designed for the iPod screen. I could sort of see that if I were still traveling Greyhound a lot and the battery life was good, but I'd need to sit at the Apple Store and evaluate it. The competitor there is obviously the PSP.

Incidentally, you're totally out of touch on the PSP. It's been selling lots of movies. In fact, I suspect that's what pushed Steve Jobs over the edge and forced the introduction of the video iPod. But Steve doesn't yet have any actual movies. I'll be very interested to see what he comes up with there.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 03:33 pm (Link)
can you save both the galactica and the nighstalker til I have a chance to come over and watch them on the projector too... I'm kinda curious about seeing the difference that the compression makes myself.

I didn't realize that getting Galactica was that slow for you (compared to getting content from iTMS) Yes, that is a huge advantage. By the way, how was Night Stalker?

So if you were Greyhounding still, do you think you'd watch content on your 2.5 inch iPod screen or would you rather some solution of sucking it off your TiVo and watching it on your 15 inch Powerbook screen? I've never really gotten into that scene, but I believe its doable for a relatively small hardware investment, which is how all the stuff gets out there for bittorrent in the first place. And for that matter, isn't that what TiVo2Go is all about? Is that even active yet? Are they still even planning it?

I've heard that PSP movies were selling. But I was thinking maybe it was like the Spice Girls. Billions of copies sold, and yet no one admitted to it. Granted I haven't actually done a real survey, and my observation group is highly prejudiced, but I know I think 7 people with PSPs and none of them are into watching movies on it. Actually, I think one does rip DVDs himself to watch on it, but I think that may be more a geek novelty than anything else. On the other hand, I imagine that if I had a kid that I was inclined to take on frequent roadtrips, I might be quite happy to stick them in the back seat with a PSP, a pair of headphones and a movie collection to keep them quiet.
From: sui66iy Date: October 13th, 2005 - 04:01 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 04:45 pm (Link)
From: sui66iy Date: October 13th, 2005 - 06:08 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 06:24 pm (Link)
From: zonereyrie Date: October 13th, 2005 - 09:51 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 10:27 pm (Link)
From: zonereyrie Date: October 13th, 2005 - 10:30 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 10:42 pm (Link)
From: zonereyrie Date: October 13th, 2005 - 10:43 pm (Link)
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 13th, 2005 - 10:30 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 10:45 pm (Link)
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 13th, 2005 - 11:02 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 14th, 2005 - 02:51 am (Link)
From: sui66iy Date: October 14th, 2005 - 02:13 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 19th, 2005 - 02:28 pm (Link)
[User Picture]From: marmal8 Date: October 13th, 2005 - 02:30 pm (Link)
So here I sit on my fast computer with the big hard drive and cheap speakers and tiny 7-year-old monitor. Do I really want to watch movies on it? Hell no, but then, my television was free, and I watch movies on that. The main difference being that the television is in front of the couch, and the computer is in the office portion of the kitchen. Couches are comfy places to watch movies.

What do I like? I like watching movies on demand off the cable. $3.95, but they are recent and when I'm done with them, they go away. No videos to return. No boxes cluttering up my house. No data cluttering up my hard drive. Suits the anti-stuff mood I've been in for the last year.

And no, I still haven't bought a DVD player. I only own about 20 VHS movies and there are maybe another 5 I would consider shelling out for if anyone still sold VHS anymore. Most shows I only watch once or twice. Who has time to watch them over?

Yeah, and my cell phone is black and white too. Can't even send pictures on that. What would I do with them, look at them once? I'd have to spend a hell of a lot of time on the subway to want to watch movies on something that small.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 03:45 pm (Link)
now this is an interesting comparisson. I'm not the type who will pay $3.95 for OnDemand movies. I'd rather pay $8 up front and just watch whatever HBO has to offer on any of their 6 (or however many) channels. And actually, I'm not even doing that right now. But I know that OnDemand is very popular. So what it really comes down to is are people willing to save 50% at a substantial loss of quality but gaining the ability to take it with you on an iPod.

Its also comparable to vCast or whatever they call that "watch video on your cellphone" thing that they're pushing these days. I can't see myself getting into that either. Like you said, the screen is just so small, and not comfortable to watch for long content. I could see watching a free 10 min. news update podcast or something while riding the subway to work, but theres no way I'm going to tolerate watching 45 min. of TV drama on it. Maybe I just don't commute passively enough to see the value. If I actually took a subway every morning, I guess I could change my mind.
From: katieboyd Date: October 13th, 2005 - 11:16 pm (Link)
[User Picture]From: bogosort Date: October 13th, 2005 - 03:27 pm (Link)
I'm a videophile, so the 320x240 resolution of the video iPod just doesn't quite do a show justice, esp when it's the hig quality content that is generally worth watching.

Now I do see a at least some of market for something like the downloadable episodes. Many people are starting to become TV adverse and don't even bother with cable anymore. I think a better comparison to this isn't the regular TV/Tivo market, but the market for TV DVDs. Something like Desparate Housewives(which is a guilty pleasure of mine) goes for ~40 for 23 episodes($1.74 an episode). Now the extra 25 cents doesn't seem so bad considering the fact that you get near instant gratification, and don't have to wait until the season's over before you see it.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 04:28 pm (Link)
yeah, the 320x240 complaint seems to be the big stumbling block here.

I'm not sure I believe that people are becoming more TV adverse. The data can be interpreted either way. We know that the key age 18-24 male demo is taking a dive, but we also know that the size of the TV watching universe is stillm increasing. And we know that the Nielsen rating system is substantially flawed. Nielsen has always had a known problem with under reporting ratings for time shifted shows with VCRs and the advent of DVR is making it much worse (even with TiVo's attempts to help them). Another problem they have is that multiple TV households are also under reported (this is a long standing problem, it makes children's television shows be reported much lower than they probably should be).

That said, advances in home video(DVD) and video game technology as well as the availability of the internet are almost certainly stealing TV viewers away. Also you have to take into account that maybe the focus of programming is shifting to other groups than the traditional key one. Obviously, you're a member of that group. Dammit, someone give me grant money so I can investigate this sort of thing.
From: bogosort Date: October 13th, 2005 - 05:25 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 06:22 pm (Link)
From: bogosort Date: October 13th, 2005 - 06:42 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 06:56 pm (Link)
From: bogosort Date: October 13th, 2005 - 07:43 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 08:18 pm (Link)
[User Picture]From: bryguypgh Date: October 13th, 2005 - 06:30 pm (Link)
Actually, I've seen That's So Raven a few times and it's pretty funny.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 06:36 pm (Link)
Well, like I said... at least I'd heard of that one.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 13th, 2005 - 10:36 pm (Link)
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 13th, 2005 - 10:52 pm (Link)
they're not going to. There is no reason for them to do so. People get into the entertainment business to become rich. Despite how I might feel about music and movies being overpriced, the simple truth is, by copying video, you are in fact "stealing" from them. You are enjoying their services without paying them additional revenue. And they're too greedy to let that go by. There really isn't anything to be gained by the music/movie industries just letting the personal use copying go. All it would do is serve to make us hippies happier. It will never put any more money in their pockets and worse case scenario, its would take a lot out of their pockets.

Not allowing us make copies of video media isn't going to alienate anyone anywhere near enough that it puts a dent in the studios pockets. So therefore it makes sense for them to do. That said, it's also one of the things that's going to hurt this from ever really taking off. I don't want to watch tv on my computer, dammit. I want to watch it on my TV in the other room. So I won't be using the service much.

That said, if you wanted to copy video footage playing on your screen, you're a smart girl, I'm sure you'll manage. Really, its been like 24 hours already. I'm sure there are hacks googleable by now.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 13th, 2005 - 11:12 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 14th, 2005 - 03:02 am (Link)
[User Picture]From: katieboyd Date: October 13th, 2005 - 11:02 pm (Link)
I think I'd be more likely to pay a monthly fee for access rather than an itimized fee. See, when I go to watch something, I see that it costs, and I decide to do/watch something else. If it's something that's just available, and I'm just billed. I just pay the bill and am glad for it.
Like cable.
I do see reasons for this not being the best thing for the companies. Whats to stop me from just downloading everything available in the first month and then canceling my subscription. There'd have to be some sort of limiting factor. I'm really unsure of what logistics would make this work. But, I'm sure marketing execs out there are much more motivated to figure it out.

Yes. I do think this is the future of entertainment. We will tell our TVs "I want to watch this now." some downloading will happen, and we will watch it. There will be no schedules, only release dates. TiVo is the first step down this path.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 14th, 2005 - 03:04 am (Link)
yeah, that's the broadcast model. It relies on you having to watch content as its sent so that you can't just suck down the entire feed and then cancel. But similarly, I don't want to be beholden to a per view charge either. That's why I advocated the commercial advertising model. See the conversation above with bogosort
[User Picture]From: sugarpinkrose Date: October 19th, 2005 - 01:49 pm (Link)
I quit watching TV so I won't be paying for that. But even if I did watch TV, we have Tivo at the moment~ my husband loves to TiVo motorcycle racing.

I watched 24 for part of last season but I stopped watching it. That's a whole separate rant, really. Not to derail your rant, but doesn't it anger you at all that nobody seems to believe in "innocent until proven guilty" on that show? It TOTALLY bugs me. I know, I know, it's just TV. However it isn't entirely illogical to think that entertainment and politics are in bed together these days, and it just strikes me that the show is fitting in a bit too much with the whole political propaganda machine...

Not that it isn't an interesting show!

Anyway back to your regularly scheduled conversation...
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 19th, 2005 - 02:23 pm (Link)
ooh, that's an interesting one.

Actually, no, it doesn't bother me. That's becuase, the paranoia sub context of the show is one of the most interesting things about it. I see it as a commentary on the state of anti terrorism in the government. Yes, CTU's theory is generally "we don't have for niceness. Let's torture the guy now and apologize later if we have to." And it turns out they are wrong just as often they are right. So yes, it is fitting with the political propoganda machine. I don't think they're really trying to push the idea that its right though. They're saying "look Jack is effective, of course he ultimately ends up ruining his life by doing this, and really, every day he hass to go through, he comes out a little less human."

That and it teaches us that establishing a perimiter around terrorist activity is useless as the terrorist will have no problem slipping throught it anyway, and there's really no point in ever trying. Unless of course you have a bunch of extras with you that are otherwise going to be doing nothing.
From: sugarpinkrose Date: October 19th, 2005 - 08:15 pm (Link)
From: sugarpinkrose Date: October 19th, 2005 - 08:16 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 19th, 2005 - 10:19 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: October 19th, 2005 - 10:20 pm (Link)

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