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Internet Pay Per View

By ODiV in Op-Ed
Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 01:31:25 AM EST
Tags: Movies (all tags)

Hollywood is taking its first tentative steps towards an Internet delivery system for film. On January 22, Miramax will put a feature film up for download on the Internet. This will be the first time that a major studio has done this.

Guinevere, a 1999 release starring Sarah Polley and Stephen Rea, will be available for 3.49USD per download. The download will be approximately 500 Megabytes and will only be viewable up to 24 hours after download. Sightsound.com is providing the encryption and using Microsoft's video compression to deliver the film.

This film is the first of 12 which will be made available for download as an experiment by Miramax. A Napster like service for film is becoming more and more likely with bandwidth and compression technology always improving.

Will this experiment pay off? Will they corner online film distribution before illegally trading movies on the net becomes too widespread?

It seems as though they're on the right track, but the conditions of viewing and the price seem awfully restrictive. I sense some potential for success, but frankly, in it's current form it doesn't stand much of a chance. Compared to physically renting a movie released in 1999, some disadvantages to the consumer are immediately apparent: it costs slightly more than a normal rental (not including transfer costs if applicable), it is only viewable 24 hours after downloading, the compression will be apparent (unless some incredible advances have been made recently that I'm not aware of), and it will be viewed on the computer which in general is just not as well suited for movies.

On the flip side of the coin, there are some advantages over traditional renting. These are that you don't have to leave the house, you don't need a VCR, and they'll never be out of copies. Another important factor is novelty. Remember Stephen King's forray into electronic publishing?

Currently the disadvantages are far too numerous and important for Miramax's experiment to be the final say in online film distribution. As it stands this reminds me too much of divx and all of the ugliness that it entails. Hopefully the studios will become a little more reasonable in future attempts and we can reach a happy medium. Or does that sound too naive?

Factual data for the piece obtained from CNET.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


I am
o excited and will pay to download this. 4%
o awaiting a crack for this. 43%
o happy with renting videotapes. 14%
o insulted at the swindle they're trying to pull. 14%
o hoping that they'll come up with a better deal. 18%
o Inoshiro. 4%

Votes: 74
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Miramax
o Guinevere
o Sightsound .com
o forray
o Also by ODiV

Display: Sort:
Internet Pay Per View | 23 comments (17 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Netflix (4.80 / 5) (#1)
by Refrag on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:02:10 PM EST

I feel that Netflix offers a much better deal already. I don't need to leave the house, and they're rarely out of copies. Netflix's bandwidth is huge, it's only disadvantage is the latency of the distribution method.


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches

ick cookies (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by ODiV on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:20:19 PM EST

I have "permanent cookies" turned off and I can't view this site. Why would it be necessary to have permanent information stored on my computer?

This site looks like a really good idea though. Thanks for the link.

[ odiv.net ]
[ Parent ]
permanent cookies? (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by fvw on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 09:50:48 AM EST

I assume you mean cookies that don't die when you kill your browser? There's no way for the server to know wether its cookie has stuck except checking if it gets it back. So if your browser is smart enough to accept the cookie for this session, there shouldn't be any problem. (This is very easy with netscape, just collect all the cookies you actually want (logins etc), then make your cookie jar readonly, and hey presto, unwanted cookies don't stick. (this sounds like an advertisment for kitchen utensils :-) ))

[ Parent ]
Actually you can rent from the internet too... (4.50 / 2) (#3)
by theboz on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:03:35 PM EST

When I got my DVD player I recieved some free rentals at a place called www.netflix.com.

I have not tried them yet, as it requires a subscription type thing but it sounds like a good idea I think. Has anyone here tried them and can offer more information? All I know is that it seems to be you choose a DVD online, they mail it to you, and you mail it back when you are done in their SASE. So you never have to leave the house, unless your mailbox is further away. :o)


netflix is good (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by nospoon on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:24:09 PM EST

I had the netflix service for about 6 months and I always got my money's worth. I had a plan for like $30 a month you could have up to 4 movies at once and keep them as long as you want. I would watch them the same day I got them and put them back in the mail the next day. With my queue full of movies I didn't even have to pick the next one each time, they were sent automatically. I had to cancel the service because I am travelling too much and I'm hardly ever home anymore. But all in all it is a very worthwhile service and I averaged less than $2 per movie the whole time I was signed up for the service.

Oh, btw, I'm not affiliated with them in any way, just liked the service! :)

'Desire that is Friday'
[ Parent ]
Napster precedent (4.33 / 3) (#5)
by cezarg on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:14:28 PM EST

The fact that there is virtually no movie content on the net is caused by the enormous popularity of Napster. I work for a company that specialises in providing TV over broadband and one of the biggest challenges to our success is convincing content providers that their stuff is safe and won't be "shared" by a movie equivalent of Napster.

As far as bandwitdth is concerned it is less of an issue these days especially now that MPEG4 and the latest Window Media Codec are available. With multiple pass encoding you can achieve near DVD quality within about 750kbps. The technology is here, we just lack the content!

I'd Pay...if... (2.75 / 4) (#6)
by Phage on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:15:06 PM EST

Some relevant comments can also be found in this story.

I would agree with the rest of your points. This does not look feasible until broadband is made widely available with the sort of data transfer speeds that I would associate with fibre. As this company is now starting to do.

After all, it is becoming more and more obvious that we cannot wait for the Govt-owned Telco to offer such a service.

I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.

Another... (1.66 / 3) (#10)
by Phage on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:51:03 PM EST

This company is another good example.

I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.
[ Parent ]

What a rip-off (4.50 / 2) (#9)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:30:57 PM EST

I paid and downloaded Quantum Project, the first Hollywood movie (a short actually) to be released through the web, and was pretty happy about the whole concept. The price was a bit high for a short (I think it was about $6) but it had unlimited viewing time and the movie wasn't all that bad, either. Of course sightsound.com FAQ had info on how to back up the license only after my hdd crashed...

But this is insane. Paying for something you can only enjoy for 24 hours? I don't think so. As the poster pointed out, that right there is one of the major reasons Divx (the Circuit City dvd-like version) failed. Selling movies as perishables is a counter-intuitive idea to most people. Downloading a 500 meg file is also prohibitive to most people.

But when it comes to quality of compressed video, I guess you haven't seen the latest divx ;-) "backups" of dvds which can be practically dvd quality. I assume the movie in question is encoded as an .asf file, which is not as good as divx ;-), but it's decent.

My bodyweight is muscle and cock MMM
Tenured K5 uberdouchebag Herr mirleid
Meatgazer Frau gr3y

Wrestling PPVs (4.00 / 2) (#11)
by AdamJ on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:53:37 PM EST

I don't watch movies, but both major american wrestling organizations (WWF and WCW) have broadcast PPVs online for a fee less than the actual PPV. I don't think WCW is doing it anymore (they broadcast Thunder on broadcast.com, though), and although I've been told that the WWF still does it, I can't find any info for this Sunday's Royal Rumble via the 'net...

Big disadvantage (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by enterfornone on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 12:19:45 AM EST

The main disadvantage I can see is that, on my home machine at least, it would be a lot quicker to walk to my local video shop than it would be to download an avi (or whatever) file.

I hope it's 24 hours from when the download finishes, not from when it starts.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
Hope that 24 hours is once it finishes... (4.66 / 3) (#15)
by J'raxis on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 12:58:38 AM EST

500 MB = 524,288,000 B = 4,194,304,000 b ("a lot").

On a 57,600 (56Kb) connection, which is still relatively common, that's:

72,817 seconds
1213.6 minutes
20.23 hours.

And remember that 56Kb rarely if ever downloads at 100% capacity. IIRC, standard phone lines can't even transfer data at 57,600 b/s.

At a sustained download of 50KB/s, we'd have:

10,240 seconds
170.7 minutes
2.85 hours.

This is also assuming that their servers will be able to sustain maximum transfer rates of this huge file to everyone downloading it, more or less at the same time. I think we're about to see the Slashdot effect on a scale we've never seen before. :)

-- The Cable Modem Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]

Totally shameless plug (5.00 / 2) (#16)
by Potsy on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 01:10:18 AM EST

I had a diary entry about this very subject a while back.

Rentage (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by Fastleaf on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 02:36:09 AM EST

Hrm, I think this timelimit isn't going to work to well. Not actually being able to keep something you payed for. Basically what your doing is paying them more then you would if you just went to a rental store. At least you get to keep it for a few days when you get it from there.

Personally I'm not gonna spend all that time downloading something that will only last a day, especially since I have to pay for it. Besides, I've stopped buying cd's and going to movies a long time ago. They've been getting really lame for years now. I mean, they've always had the aspect of commercialism, but it's just ridiculous how much crap is coming out, yet they keep on making more and more money.

Big corporations love the idea of rent to use. People who use these things on the other hand.. Well, most of them don't give a crap. They don't care. They have no idea.

$3.50 for a day? Thats not the half of it. (5.00 / 2) (#21)
by iainl on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 10:38:58 AM EST

Its a bit AOL to mention the insanity of downloading a 500Mb file through my modem, but I'd thought I'd point out that for an added bonus, 20 hours worth of download time here in the UK would cost me about 50 in phone charges during the week! The extra 2.50 or so that Miramax would get kind of pales next to that.

The phrase 'almost' DVD quality scares me, too. I remember when VideoCD was supposed to look 'almost as good as laserdisc', which is a bit like saying a NES has almost as good graphics as a Playstation2.

Movie Rental (none / 0) (#22)
by Andrew Dvorak on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 12:06:02 PM EST

It'll be interesting when video rental stores take to the Internet. Of course, the rental "store" will have an accounting system so that the number of copies leased out does not exceed the number of hard copies owned by them. We can probably be sure the big studios and content providers would go after these people.

This will be particularly interesting due to the DMCA. In the United States, at least, with the current legislative protections DVDs take advantages of, such a rental system will be illegal without expectedly expensive licensing agreements with the movie companies.

I had never considered the full effects of the DMCA until I had realized the impact it could have on new video rental technologies.

Q:Do rental stores currently pay royalty or licencing fees to the producion companies?

[ Parent ]
A: yes, in short (none / 0) (#23)
by iainl on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 12:24:15 PM EST

Q:Do rental stores currently pay royalty or licencing fees to the producion companies?

They have two possible ways; either they pay the high price for copies to lend out (the only option to smaller places), or strike a revenue sharing deal, which is your royalty suggestion. Basically, Blockbusters pay a piddling cost for the tape compared to anyone else, but part of the rental cost for each loan goes back to the company. This way the studios get lots of money on the successful renters, but Blockbusters franchises can afford to have lots of tapes in stock for the titles they offer guaranteed copies on.

As for how this is leading to them killing any independant video stores, thats a whole other debate.

[ Parent ]
Internet Pay Per View | 23 comments (17 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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