The mainstream press is full of the news that major Hollywood studios have begun making their wares available for download from
Movielink. I’ve had a chance to peruse both sites and I have to say that I’m really excited.
Because if what I saw at CinemaNow and Movielink is the best companies other than Apple can do, customers will stay away in droves. They could return when a thinking body offers a service that doesn’t make buying and watching movies an onerous task and, for my money, that body is Apple.
Last night I downloaded the first season of Showtime’s
Weeds from the iTunes Music Store. To do so I clicked a single Buy Season button, entered my Apple ID when prompted, and the season’s 10 episodes downloaded to my Mac. This morning I synced them with my 60GB 5G iPod, which I intended to use to watch the programs on my TV. All in all, pretty easy.
I also visited CinemaNow and Movielink. First mistake was doing so with my Macintosh. Neither site supports the Mac. Switching to my PC, I fired up Firefox and tried again. Mistake two was using Firefox. Both sites demand that Internet Explorer be the default browser and that you have installed Windows Media Player 10 (the client for viewing the movies).
Support for DVD burning? As with the iTunes Music Store that’s a big no-no. You can burn your movies to CD or DVD in its original Windows Media Player format for archival purposes, but archiving is it. That disc won’t play on anything you own (or will likely ever own).
Support for portable players? Sorry, no. You can play these movies only on your PC. If you want to watch them on a TV you have to connect your computer to your television and its sound system.
Rights management? That depends. Unlike iTunes, which has a consistent set of limitations on the media you purchase, Movielink lets the moviemakers set the limits on the media you buy. Some movies can be played on up to three PCs. Others are limited to a single PC. You must check the rules for each movie you intend to buy to learn which is which.
Availability of movies? Starting today, the two companies will sell some releases the same day they’re available on DVD. For example, Movielink is selling a widescreen edition of Brokeback Mountain for $27.
Amazon is selling its DVD widescreen edition of that same movie for $17. Movielink’s download doesn’t include any special features nor does it offer the subtitles and 5.1 soundtrack available on the less-expensive disc.
Also the movie catalogs aren’t permanent. The distribution agreements made with the movie companies state that these services can offer certain movies for a specific amount of time only.
So, let’s sum up:
- Support for PCs only.
- Support for Internet Explorer only.
- No DVD burning.
- No support for portable players.
- Prices higher than DVDs.
- Variable limits on where you can play your movies.
- Inconsisitent availability of movies.
Wow, such a deal.
The movie industry and these companies understand that we have other choices that give us a measure of portability, right? For the moment let’s forget less-expensive DVDs that I can purchase (or rent from NetFlix) that can be played on any video player I own. With my TiVo or EyeTV I can grab a favorite TV show or Pay Per View movie and watch it on my TV or, with a little work, translate it to a form viewable on a computer and iPod.
Consumers want their media to be playable on the devices they own. Apple gets this, and has from the beginning. (Okay, maybe Apple gets this up to the point where you want to play your purchased media on a portable device other than the iPod.) The CinemaNow and Movielink models run counter to this notion—making you jump through hoops to not only buy their movies, but view them as well.
Wake me when a real downloadable movie solution comes along.