I used to be a Netflix subscriber, but canceled last year. I like the idea, but I never seemed to have the right movie at the right time. Sometimes you have an urge to see a particular movie but after a day or two in the mail, the mood has passed and you’re on to the next thing. I want immediate access to any movie at any time. That’s what makes the old school movie rental shop work; you can fulfill your movie urge right away.
Online access to movies should provide a similar experience, so the Netflix “watch it now” feature for immediate streaming of a movie should be just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, in its current first gen form, it’s close but no cigar. For starters, there are only 1,000 movies available for streaming, not nearly enough. Second, no Macintosh compatibility. Third, no download available, it’s only a stream. The movies come with a heavy dose of DRM anyway, so why not let me download the title and have a few days within to watch it? This would also make it more compatible with home entertainment digital media boxes that let you watch digital content stored on your computer on your big screen tv. And with movies, that’s certainly what you want. A stream is just not as convenient.
Nobody has gotten it right up to this point. Amazon Unbox also does not support Macintosh but at least supports downloads with a time limit and has reasonable rental pricing. If you have a portable device that supports Windows Media Player, you can even take your movie on the go. Pretty cool, but no iPod of course. Speaking of Apple, the iTunes store now supports movie downloads but on a purchase only basis. I need a rental option because there are many movies I want to watch but not own.
When oh when will someone pull it all together and make something that really works. If the movie industry would stop the kvetching over content protection and start thinking of how they can best serve their customers, I don’t think piracy will be a significant problem. Give people a good service with reasonable pricing and they will be willing to purchase. iTunes music store proves this.