Monday, January 09, 2006

Fun with iTunes Video

I recently got into the whole Lost phenomenon and just finished watching all of season 1 from Netflix. Naturally I wanted to jump right into season 2, but since I came late to the party I missed recording it on Tivo. What was I to do? Normally I would wait it out, but I really wanted to find out what was in that hatch. So, I decided to see if I could find it online.

My first attempt was to find the missing episodes using BitTorrent. It took all of a few minutes to find my fix, but I wanted to find a more legitimate way. Ideally, I also wanted to be able to watch on my TV, not on a computer.

After a little more research I ended up installing iTunes and found that I could purchase episodes for $1.99. I also noticed that my laptop had an s-video output. Score! After a relatively quick download I plugged my laptop into my receiver and sat back to get my Lost fix. The picture was definitely not perfect and the relatively dark Lost scenes only helped highlight compression artifacts, but it was good enough. I'll be purchasing the rest of the episodes I missed right away.

I think (hope) this is the future of content distribution. Obviously it needs to be much easier, but I love being able to get exactly what I want, when I want it. With the introduction of Google Video and other video services, things are going to be very exciting over the next few years.

So, my $2 got me the show I wanted, on demand. Obviously this price includes some cost of distribution, but also needs to take into account that all commercials were removed. I was wondering, why don't they offer free version with commercials included? Since iTunes is handling playback they could even disable fast forwarding. Why not let the customer make the time/money tradeoff rather than making it for them? Besides, you could do some very cool things with the advertisements in the show. Ads could be selected on a per customer basis and the whole show could be woven together just before downloading.. could be very cool.

One final thought. It is amazing (but not surprising) that is it really the content that matters. I didn't need HD TV or 7.1 surround sound. Nope, I just wanted to watch my show and was willing to spend money to watch it at a lower quality.

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