Ars takes the new BitTorrent video store for a spin and finds unsurprisingly that DRM renders it useless. Off the top of my head,here’s what a genuinely successful online video store is going to require:
Intuitive. The interface should be identical to NetFlix, with genres down one side and a search box. A Queue functionality should be a given, with options to “subscribe” to shows.
Comprehensive. Every TV show that is currently broadcast or on cable should be available. Movies should have simultaneous release on the big screen and at the online store.
Value. No more than $1 per 30 min for movies, $1 an hour for TV. Hot picks or new releases could reasonably go double or triple that rate within a short time window, say three to four weeks. The price could decrement in stages over that time frame. Allow users to get a discount on TV show downloads if they opt for included TV commercials (which will be formatted as part of the content chapters, so they cant be skipped on the DVD burn). The purists can pay full price for the ad-free version. For movies, give the user a discount coupon for the soundtrack CD or a free movie rental at Blockbuster or Hollywood Video as a freebie (give those chains free ad space to cover their costs). Permit the user to apply discounts/pay a premium for higher or lower resolutions (ie, 50% for iPod or 150% for BluRay).
Burn to DVD. The vast, vast majority of video is seen on consumers’ expensive TV sets. Its still very rare for people to have a PC next to the TV set, and will be rare for a long time. HD-DVD and BluRay, not to mention the mandatory upgrade cost of HDTV for everyone within the next year or two, means that people have enough new media hardware to spend money on.
And what about DRM? First, let’s acknowledge reality: all DRM schemes are bogus to begin with.
Second: what Steve said. But more importantly: recognize that the lack of protection on audio CDs has not impeded sales. Note that you can burn iTunes tracks to CD as well. Theres no reason that burning to DVD would result in any threat to the studios’ revenue streams; in fact, I’d be able to burn a disc of great scifi show episodes and get my friends hooked. We could share video discs the way we did with mix tapes and CDs. The lack of any need for DRM on the files would also mean less overhead and increase profits to the studios directly.
Have I missed anything? If the studios build this, the consumers will come. Ultimately we shouldn’t even be wasting our broadcast spectrum on television; it should all be wired.