The AppleTV as a Video on Demand box

PaidContent.org is pointing to FT.com and WSJ.com (subscription required) about Apple’s discussions with Hollywood studios leading to a “rental” version of iTunes movies that would be priced at $2.99 for a 30-day usage of a movie on up to two devices.

Last night, my daughter and I were using the movie trailer feature on Apple TV when I observed how similar it is to the Comcast on-demand service — except with the AppleTV, the trailers are being streamed from the Internet via wifi access to the web. While the articles in FT.com and WSJ.com are focused on the iTunes distribution channel, it would seem to me that studios that are reluctant to distribute some rental-DRM version of movies through iTunes may be more comfortable w/ an AppleTV, boxtop on-demand service.

I’ll be happy to see a rental service via iTunes, however, I’m wondering if the “video on demand” discussions taking place are being interpreted wrongly by those who want it to be something more than it is.

  • scott

    The VOD concept with the Apple TV is an interesting idea, and also one that would require one heckuva sales pitch for it to gain some momentum. I’m guessing it would really develop and flourish through the traditional iTunes/ITMS market.

    The trailers you mentioned are only a few mb each, and can be streamed rather easily. That will be not the case with the movies. Instead, you will have to download it so you can watch it at any point over the 30 day time period. The upside is that you won’t have buffer issues. The downsides to that, imho, are (1) how large is the file (and is it in HD), and (2) how long will it take to download?

    Currently, the movie store purchases are not HD-content. The file sizes, IIRC, are roughly 750mb to 1.75gb. The ITMS FAQ says that the range for downloading a movie can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours (based on file size and what kind of internet connection you have). that’s a good chunk of time, especially when compared to selecting something off comcast’s VOD system. i guess people could start the download when they went to bed so they’d have it the next day, or in the morning and it would be ready when they got back from work. Will people accept that vs

    The comparison to Comcast highlights other challenges as well for the Apple TV VOD service. Most people who have a tv get some form of cable service, and the box is included in the service (note that come July, the market is supposed to open up so that you aren’t forced to take whatever box your cable company gives you, so there may be some interesting set top boxes on the horizon). That being said, how many people are going to disregard their cable company VOD service to go out and buy a $299-399 Apple TV when they can just click the on demand button on their remote? there’s no additional purchase, no wiring, no networking, etc. – and that’s a really attractive option to those who are not so technically inclined.

    That’s not to say the VOD would be worthless. I’m guessing it would be very popular among younger people (hs, college, etc.) and anyone who is very mobile, frequently using iTunes and their iPod. If your computer is also your tv/dvd player, it’s a natural fit. Great for people with ipods who ride the train/subway in for work (which is why i think it’s great that they sell tv shows on the ITMS), great for people with laptops who travel and want to pick up something new for the flight/hotel room, etc.

    on a sidenote, i wonder how long it will take to crack the DRM.

  • scott

    crap. last sentence in the third paragraph should say will people accept that vs. an “easier” comcast model?

  • Rex Hammock

    Scott, while I’m sure you raise some valid issues, I will take a stab at your question about how many people will disregard their cable company VOD service and purchasing an AppleTV. I’d estimate in the 2-3 million range. However, I’m not, like you, seeing a replication of the Comcast service, but a vision of “on-demand” that incorporates the ability of users of the box to access video/audio as easily as one can subscribe to video/audio podcasts on iTunes. I believe “on demand” will be a way we will use our cable service, but “on demand” will be the way we also access an exploding variety of video and audio content available online. One day it will all be blended into one device, perhaps. But, for now, I think Apple is the best player to address the “ease of use” issues it will take to get us from here to there.