Downloadable movies and the DVP5960

So Mulley mentions that are planning to offer downloadable movies. Great concept, but I can guarantee the execution will be crap on a stick. :(

First off, the content available:

‘When the service goes live on 1 May, customers will be able to avail of content from several Irish producers including Network Ireland Television, as well as Video International’s film library which includes films like The Little Shop of Horrors. The company is also seeking content from both the History and Biography Channels, which would mean a substantial back catalogue of documentary shows.’

Sorry, but: snore.

Secondly, the technology used:

‘ content must be downloaded onto a PC or laptop but can then be transferred over to digital media players like the iPod Touch for viewing on the go. This service will be compatible with Apple Macs but only if the user downloads Windows Media Player.’

So in other words, it’s Windows Media. That means it won’t play on my TV through my MythTV box, on a USB stick plugged into a Philips DVD player, on my Linux laptop, or even on a normal DVD player using a burned DVD.

Too little, too late. Plenty of Irish consumers are already consuming downloaded video — as the popularity of the Philips DVP5960 demonstrates. For legal video downloads to work, they need to be somewhere remotely near as convenient and usable as BitTorrent.

Using DRM is just falling down the same rabbit hole that swallowed up downloadable music for 5 years. Nobody used that either, until gradually the companies involved realised that opening up was the only way to get customers, bringing us to where we are today — legal downloads using the MP3 format.

BTW, I know that’s the same DRM technology used by Channel 4’s “4oD” download service. Big deal — I don’t bother trying to watch that stuff either, for the same reasons. If Channel 4 jumped off a cliff, would jump after them?


(By the way, that Philips DVD player is a total success story. That’s a name-brand hardware manufacturer, making a low-end, $60 DVD player, with support for viewing downloaded XviD AVI movies on a USB stick. Apparently it’ll also play off USB hard disks, too. It’s immensely popular; for example, here’s a customer review of 10/10: “Best thing ever”. Several of my friends have them, and praise them highly. I’m coming up to DVD player replacement time, and I’m planning to get one too.)

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  1. Posted April 14, 2008 at 12:45 | Permalink

    “This service will be compatible with Apple Macs but only if the user downloads Windows Media Player.”

    I even wonder about this, Windows Media Player 9 for Mac OS X only supports version 1 licenses – most content these days uses the subsequent license format introduced by WMP10. Anyway, you’re right, this is doomed to fail for all the other reasons you gave.

    Good luck with the Philips DVD player, I have a two year old mac mini under my TV for the same reason – a highly underrated alternative even though FrontRow (the non-extensible 12 foot interface) sucks – VLC to the rescue!

  2. Posted April 14, 2008 at 14:10 | Permalink

    Hmm, if they’re claiming it works on an iPod then it can’t be Windows media, surely? And if it is , it’ll need to be transcoded, which means the DRM gets stripped (because Apple don’t give out FairPlay licenses) which means you have a workaround – albeit a rather horrible one.

    Of course, I don’t much follow the digital media thing too closely, so I could be incorrect in my assumptions, or naive in my belief that the advertising copy reflects the actual technology.

    (also, your blogging software doesn’t preserve the state of the ‘notify me’ tickbox between preview and post. When I say ‘no email’, I mean that.)

  3. Posted April 14, 2008 at 15:35 | Permalink

    hey Ronan —

    Regarding the accuracy of the ad copy — when it comes to digital media and DRM, the variance between what’s written about it and the reality is usually gigantic ;) Journos just don’t really know how to ask the right questions, I think, or maybe sceptical stories don’t sell ad space.

    Quoting the original story: ‘[the download] must be downloaded onto a PC or laptop but can then be transferred over to digital media players’ (my highlighting) — I reckon that means transcoding on the desktop is required in some way. However, I can’t find anything online about this being possible with Windows Media Player or 4oD, so it may just be totally imaginary marketing spooge anyway.

    sorry about the comment-form glitch btw — if I get some tuits I’ll take a look.

  4. Posted April 14, 2008 at 21:39 | Permalink

    I was somewhat surprised at the coverage this has gotten, it may just be that it is a .ie that has caused it to be picked up by the media because it’s a nothing story otherwise.