Archives For DVD


As ZNF readers are well aware, one of the biggest challenges we face with digital media (books, music, video) is in sharing it. Legally.  Over at Live Digitally, Jeremy Toeman details one possible scenario for an Amazon Kindle used book store – allowing folks to resell books back to Amazon for a store credit. And in turn, Amazon offering these ‘books’ at a lower cost than ‘new’ ones.

Despite his calculations, I’m not sold. Traditional supply, demand, production, and distribution rules don’t transfer cleanly from the analog world to a wired marketplace hawking digital goods. Other than an artificially lower resale value, what’s the difference between a ‘used’ ebook and a ‘new’ one?

A better solution to increase adoption and loyalty while staving off piracy is the integration of a gifting option. After purchasing most Season 1 episodes of Mad Men and Burn Notice digitally, I’d have liked to give these titles to my mom (~1,000 miles away). Instead, I ended up buying her the DVDs. Which I’m sure the studios love. But how about thinking bigger picture?

What if each digital download/license could be transferred (not copied) just once – what I believe to be a reasonable compromise between producers and consumers. And let’s give incentivize the retailers by limiting transfers to their own ecosystem. So in my case, Apple would get a new iTunes member in my mom and probably an Apple TV purchase – as I don’t see her watching video for any length of time at the computer. Building upon one of Jeremy’s ideas, perhaps retailers could also facilitate bartering (with a per exchange fee) between strangers. Which could also be a big win for music discovery, leading to additional digital purchases.

Over the years, I’ve had many music licensing, DRM, etc talks with ZNF contributor Dale Dietrich. He (had) envisioned a digital media “utopia” where every piece of content is registered with a unique serial number via an online licensing clearinghouse – and could be freely traded, sold, or loaned. In reality and unfortunately, I doubt any of our scenarios will come to pass. They’re too consumer friendly. And perhaps to complex. Guess we’ll continue to settle for low-def Hulu streaming with commercial interruption.

Over the last few years, Redbox has been able to build an impressive DVD rental network by being innovative and flexible while their competitors were still laughing at the concept of kiosk rentals. Over time they’ve added features to the Redbox website that allow customers to browse and reserve titles online. They’ve linked their kiosks together so that unlike competitors (ahem: Blockbuster), you can actually rent a movie from one location and return it at another. Redbox’s core business may ultimately be, plain old boring physical DVD rentals, but there’s no denying that they’ve been an innovator in their industry. Which is why I am so perplexed by their most recent decision to go hostile against iPhone owners.

Given the company’s reputation for thinking progressively, I was disappointed to learn that they’ve decided to take a technological step backwards by putting pressure on the Inside Redbox blog, to kill their Inside Redbox iPhone application.

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I’m a subscriber to Netflix’s one-out-at-a-time, unlimited plan ($8.99/month) to keep costs down, yet still receive a physical DVD every week and have unlimited access to the Netflix online video streaming. Some who use the Roku or Xbox 360 might wonder why there isn’t a streaming-only plan for a little less money. According to an interview with Bloomberg News, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is considering that very thing.

Hastings didn’t reveal how much they might charge for a streaming-only subscription with Netflix, but he did say that this type of play could arrive “late this year” or in 2010. The question then would be: How much are customers willing to pay for such a service? They have definitely upgraded their streaming movie collection, but it’s still full of older movies and TV shows. If Netflix offered a “premium” streaming service with newer movies and a larger collection, I’d be willing to pay more. Would you pay for an online-streaming-only service from Netflix?

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Geek Tonic.

redbox Redbox, the popular movie rental kiosks, is being completely acquired by Coinstar. McDonalds is selling their share in the company (they’ll still own some stock as part of the deal) and are leaving the video rental business to the guys at Coinstar. The business has been pretty good for Redbox as they continue to expand their $1 per movie per day business across the country. Expect to see Blu-ray disc rentals for a bit over $1 (could be up to $2) in the near future based on a report by Inside Redbox.

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Geek Tonic.

ZNF ‘Round The Web

Dave Zatz —  January 23, 2009

Leaving comments across the blogosphere…

Control TiVo With Your iPhone for $3
I’m sorry, but a TiVo touchscreen remote is so much less efficient than the Glo remote. I don’t want to look down to change channels. Nor do I want to keep my iPhone on for a two hour Lost episode. I also prefer to adjust the volume on my television.

Boxee Gets ABC
Of course the challenge with services like Boxee, PlayOn, NeurosLINK is keeping up with the providers since as far as I can tell the stuff is being scraped. And should the providers make a change, these other guys will need to race to keep up. PlayOn’s had one or two Hulu outages for example when Hulu changed their site somewhat. Ideally, all the networks get on Hulu. And then Hulu gets on a box. Every episode, every season. (Of course, licensing doesn’t work that way with the various guilds and entities that all must be paid at rates that slide around depending on length of availability, release timing, etc – no one can afford it all.)

Apple TV Stays on its “Hobby” Horse
The bottom line here is that the living room is still a tough nut to crack if offering a separate box. The cable and satellite cos really have a stranglehold on the living room here in the US. (I wish we’d see a UK Freeview-esque movement which might open up the set-top box space.) Additionally, Bruce’s point is well taken. AppleTV is still too much of a closed ecosystem (without hacking) which in keeps many of the early adopters away – who often kickstart new tech adoption.

DISH Network coming to Windows Media Center
Draco? I thought it was Stargate. Too many codenames! Although, it’s possible there are two initiatives. Relaying ViP 211 content to a Media Center and some sort of Internet streaming. Then again, with the whole SlingGuide they may shift gears and this project could suffer the same fate of DirecTV’s MCE tuner.

MPAA vs RealDVD — Why You Care
No mention of the DVD Copy Control Association? They’ve licensed CSS to DVD-burning kiosks. So they, and the MPAA, may not necessarily be against sharing the tech and permitting archiving. (Before HD DVD was killed, Windows Vista archiving was demo-ed/pitched by Microsoft at CES.) But they didn’t produce, validate, or vette Real’s protection scheme. And it’s not Real’s technology to use without license. Having said that, I do agree many large companies are overzealous in claiming DMCA violations that appear to trump pre-existing fair use consumer protections. (In fact, I’m tired of YouTube takedown notices.) At the end of the day, most folks who want to archive their DVDs already know how. (Basically, I don’t believe there’s a market for Real’s software.) And I don’t see individual consumers, who don’t share their files on BitTorrent, being dragged into court for bypassing an encryption scheme or stealing.

Over the last few years, it’s been no secret that Netflix has become the dominant force for DVD by mail rentals. There may be plenty of other ways to watch films, but when it comes to renting through the mail, Netflix’s laser like focus has put them in the enviable position of being able to assert a large degree of control over the economics of their market. While there is nothing wrong with a company being so successful that they become the dominant player through skill, there are laws against abusing that power to prevent competition.

A few years ago, Wal-mart created a copycat DVD rental service in order to try and get their own piece of the DVD rental market. Their results were disastrous and despite significant financial and retail advantages, the service never caught on with consumers. Eventually, Wal-Mart realized that it was foolish to spend as much time and money focusing on such a small part of their core business, so they threw in the towel and essentially sold their membership base to Netflix. While we know that the agreement included some cross promotional advertising, the actual terms of the deal weren’t ever publicly revealed.

While some would argue that Netflix’s agreement with Wal-mart was just another example of their business acumen, nearly four years after this transaction took place, Walmart and Netflix both stand accused of engaging in anti-trust behavior over the deal. While Netflix does see its fair share of bogus lawsuits, after reading through the complaint, I think that this case may end up having more teeth to it than most of the frivolous lawsuits that are filed. (Warning: I’m not an attorney and this is merely my opinion.) Continue Reading…

Hot Donkey

Considering how much I’ve written about DVD kiosks, some may be surprised that I recently made my first Redbox DVD rental. I was at the grocery store last week and saw that the kiosk offered the most recent Indiana Jones movie. Indiana Jones has always been a favorite of mine, so on an impulse I rented the DVD. I probably would have rented from Redbox sooner, but between TiVo, Netflix and Internet movies and TV shows, I’ve had no shortage of content and couldn’t justify spending even a measly buck.

The entire rental process was very easy and only reinforced my belief that Redbox will be wildly successful with their business model. In fact, I’ve also noticed that 7-11 has even begun testing Redbox at their stores. I’m not sure if it was the convenience of using a machine instead of dealing with long lines and surly video store clerks or the convenience of being able to make a rental as I was finishing up my grocery shopping, but now that I’ve gotten a taste, I’m sure that I’ll be back.

While it would be hard to improve on the kiosk experience, in thinking about my own entertainment needs, I realized that there is one area of the kiosk market that is still being ignored. When it comes to DVDs, there have been a number of firms who’ve thrown their hat into the kiosk ring, but so far we haven’t seen anyone introduce a kiosk system that dispenses video games.

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All About Netflix

Dave Zatz —  August 14, 2008

I hereby declare August 14th, 2008 as Netflix Dysfunction Day. I woke up this morning to a notification that my Netlix account would be upgraded (yay), followed by a notification that Netflix isn’t actually shipping any discs (boo). Normally, a couple day delay wouldn’t ruffle my feathers… However, I’m knee-deep in an HBO Wire marathon and had expected my next disc to ship on Tuesday and arrive yesterday – though it hasn’t actually yet left their facilities. So I did something I haven’t done in years and purchased a DVD (box set). The question is: How’ll I recycle the Season 2 discs in a few days?