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Downloadable Television - Why?

Apple came out with the latest iPod (with video, but not part of the name so nobody who isn't in the know can possibly tell if it's a "video" iPod or not on the shelf - WTF?) a few weeks ago. They accompanied the launch with a new offering in the iTunes Music Store - downloadable television shows. That's right, instead of setting your VCR or TiVo, you can pay two bucks to get a 320x240 video of Lost or Desperate Housewives on your two-inch screen. Why?

This week, NBC announced a deal with DirecTV to offer commercial-free television shows for a buck an episode, delivered to the DirecTV Digital Video Recorder. You know, the box you can use to record the shows when they are played on television for free? Yeah. Why?

And, finally, CBS announced a deal to deliver television shows via the pay-per-view channel on Comcast cable systems, for a buck an episode. They won't delete the commercials when they send you your copy, though. Um...Why?

I understand that television studios need to find new ways to generate revenue in the age of TiVo and the internet. Their standard commercial-supported model is going to have a hard time staying viable when people can easily skip the commercials. But, can't they find some way to add value to their offerings, rather than removing the value that was already there?

I can rent a movie for a buck (three for a new release); paying two bucks for the episode of Lost that aired ten minutes ago seems kind of retarded to me. If you notice, none of these three networks is using the same system as any other. If you want to watch ABC shows, you have to use an iPod and iTMS. If you want to watch NBC shows, you have to subscribe to DirecTV satellite service. If you prefer CBS shows, move to a city that offers Comcast cable. Fox? Nope, not playing yet. And, the networks aren't offering all of their shows on-demand - just a select few.

I don't see anything here that I can't do better with existing tools (TiVo, MythTV, ReplayTV, VHS tape) and without paying per episode. Damn, I already pay an insane amount for cable television - I'm not about to pony up another hundred bucks a month to watch the shows on a 2-inch screen.

Am I missing something vital here? Apple has sold one million downloaded videos, so someone must be watching them. More money than brains, as the saying goes.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
ernunnos
Nov. 10th, 2005 03:10 am (UTC)
If you own an iPod, you've already proved you care more about style than substance anyway. This is not a rational market segment. Trying to apply rational standards to it is not rational.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )