Downloadable Movies For Sale: Who Cares?

Posted: September 14, 2006 in Uncategorized

So it looks like this week Amazon and Apple have both entered a new market of selling movies for download. With Microsoft announcing their new “Zune” product (aka iPod ripoff), it looks like the portable player and downloadable content race is really starting to heat up. Both websites seem to have similar pricing structures, somewhere around $10-15 to download a near DVD-quality movie onto your computer. The catch? You can’t burn the movie to a DVD so basically you can only watch the movies on your portable device or your computer.

So my question is whether or not this really fills a legitimate market space. I can purchase a “real” DVD with all the bells and whistles to watch on my big screen TV for roughly the same price (particularly if I catch the sales or find pre-owned movies, which can actually be cheaper). This is not the same as the original $0.99 download for a song concept – the price differential is too high in my opinion, not to mention portable music is much more desirable than portable movie viewing. You aren’t going to watch a movie while jogging, and I’d much rather experience Pirates or Incredibles on a large screen than on my computer or a 3.5″ iPod screen. Well, that’s my thought anyway, maybe the younger generation has a different opinion.

My gut says they are being too greedy. I’d say for this to be a stronger candidate, the price structure would have had to be much more appealing (maybe $8 for new releases, $5 for older films). A one hour TV episode is $2, but a 1.5 hour movie costs 6-7 times that much. I don’t like it. (Then again I didn’t like that 5 minute videos also cost $2). Even though I think $0.99 was too high for a per song price, it was still low enough to have that impulse buying appeal. It’s not even a dollar, I can afford one more!! But now we’re talking $10+ so it’s a much bigger investment. Not to mention with songs I could burn them onto a CD and move the media into other places with less restriction.

So then there’s the rumored upcoming Apple “iTV” that will somehow bring the iTunes/movie content onto your big screen TV (presumably Microsoft will do something similar, maybe with the Xbox 360?). First off I’m not sure exactly how this will be accomplished – maybe some type of DVR-esque hard drive with a system capable of running iTunes? Or will it be wirelessly connected to your computer, in which case you have to leave your computer on? In any case, this would make the idea more palatable – my entire library digitally held in one place, I don’t even have to get up to insert a DVD to watch the movie I want to. However, if quality suffers, I’m thinking this wouldn’t be that great an option. Not to mention all those fun bonus features! And of course there’s still the cable companies and their newer/better “on demand” content to contend with.

So color me guarded. I’m a gadget whore, and Apple pretty much knows how to push all my buttons, so more than likely I’ll end up purchasing an “iTV” at release. But right now, I don’t see the vision yet.


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