Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Industry vs The Consumer

Piracy is a word that's been thrown around a lot in recent years. This article got me thinking what kind of service would appeal to me personally, as a viable alternative to downloading. Spotify is a prime example of how to do music right. I'm an avid subscriber, and have no qualms with shelling out £5/month for a reasonable selection of music. Its not perfect, but its good enough for me, which is all that matters when it comes to curbing piracy. The TV/movie industry should really take a look at this model. There is so much wrong with the current TV industry I really don't know wear to start. I don't pay for a TV license, its simply too expensive for the amount of use I'd get out of it. So I simply don't watch live TV broadcasts, which doesn't bother me in the slightest - I'd much rather watch shows when I want to watch them. Which brings us to the TiVo/Sky Plus model. This appeals to me slightly more, being able to select shows, and have it record them in decent quality as they are broadcast. But again, the combined cost of Sky Plus AND a TV license is way too high.

The BBC Iplayer/4OD type thing is all well and good, but doesn't offer me the flexibility I need - I can't watch it on my Xbox with XBMC, and I can't download shows onto my android to watch offline. Even if I could, they would be unnecessarily time restricted, for no good reason. And the quality could be better. But free is a good price, so I won't complain too much, but they certainly leave a lot to be desired.

Lovefilm/Netflix. Well I tried Lovefilm and for a while I enjoyed it, until I realised that the Blu-Rays I was getting weren't playing in Blu-Ray quality, but some gimped quality, as I wasn't using an HDMI cable. Turns out Blu-rays need all the hardware/cables/monitor to be HDCP compliant for the good quality footage to be unlocked, and don't even think of being able to play them easily on Linux, as you'll be sadly disappointed. It took me quite a while to be able to rip one onto my hard drive, and transcode it into something smaller than 30Gb, and I still wasn't happy with the result, when the alternative to simply download it is so quick and easy. So Blu-Ray isn't the solution either. Getting DVDs instead from Lovefilm kept me happy for a while, but I have noticed a sudden decrease in the quality of DVDs in recent years, probably a ploy from the publishers to slowly wean the audience onto "HD" sources. Not to mention DVDs are often so crippled with intentional errors from their draconian DRM that they often stutter and refuse play on my DVD player and computer. That leaves the streaming of videos, which I've only tried on Lovefilm, and not Netflix, so I can't speak for both, but the quality of the streaming of Lovefilm is pretty poor, and again, there is no way of downloading the whole thing for uninterrupted offline viewing. Oh, and its Microsoft Silverlight now, so there goes my custom, as I use Ubuntu.

HBO Go. Well I don't live in the USA, so there goes my ONLY chance of keeping up with Game Of Thrones in a legitimate manner. I would love to have a way of getting hold of this series as it was being aired (or within a day or two). Waiting for the DVDs/Blurays I would've had the story line ruined by other people who had watched it, believe me this has happened on more than one occasion, so watching them as soon as possible was quite an important factor on my choice of how to watch them! If I could've downloaded my choice of 480p/720p/1080p mkv (NO DRM is hugely important to me buying this product), for a small fee per episode, I might've gone for it. But what would make the whole experience more satisfying is if I got "rewarded" for my purchase. In the same way as Steam shows you a library of things you've purchased, with the option of re-downloading whenever/wherever you are, should you ever loose your copy, or want to put a reduced resolution version on a portable device. But Steam also manages to make you feel proud of buying products, knowing that your friends on steam's Community social network will see the purchase, and its nicely integrated.

Another form of media consumption that I really liked was KickStarter/Pledgemusic. Committing to buying something you like, similar to preordering I suppose, but your reward is being kept up to date on the progress of the latest filming, photos from the set, or other perks. This would be an interesting way of getting people of part with their hard earned cash for a franchise or product they are interested in.

So in summary:
* DVDs - No good, the quality is way below par, and often has problems playing in some players due to DRM
* BluRay - No good, not supported in Linux, requires new hardware to play properly. Maybe when the Xbox720 comes out...
* Physical media - Not ideal: no space for it in my flat, can only watch once all episodes have aired
* Rental services - Need 100% coverage, suffer from same problems as Physical Media
* Streaming services - Usually low/medium quality. Sometimes have time restrictions. Don't allow for offline download. Some don't allow for caching. Some are region locked to specific countries
* Bittorrent - Perfect, flexible, easy and quick

All they have to do is come up with something easier than bittorrent, and they'll be sitting on a gold mine. Maybe not as lucrative as the idea of everyone who watches their content paying the full BluRay price, but that is just a pipedream in this digital era.

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