Over on Roughly Drafted, Daniel is proposing a new subscription-based video rental system for iTunes, much like a NetFlix “five-out-at-a-time” plan.
Using his solution, you pay a monthly subscription fee to have several slots that can be filled with movies or TV shows. Selected movies are downloaded to your computer, and from there can be “checked out” to your iPhone or iPod or Apple TV.
Like NetFlix, you can keep your rental as long as you like, and watch it as many times as you like. When done, you check everything back in and select the next movie to be downloaded.
This fixes several problems with existing movie rental schemes, and solves one major issue that I believe is holding back digital video purchases.
Work with me here…
As Daniel says in his article, for these schemes to work, they have to work for the customer, and not against them.
Or to use his terminology, “By taking an new approach that follows what works in the real world, and respects the existing culture rather than trying to overturn it.”
Existing systems fail primarily because of the “exploding content” DRM model.
You rent it, and usually have 24-to-48 hours in which to watch it once, on the machine on which it was purchased, after which it explodes into little bits. (Good luck, Jim.)
The overnight subscription model…
With a slot-based subscription model, however, you can keep it as long as you want. In fact, keeping a movie out longer actually makes the system more profitable from the content-provider’s side.
The return mechanism could also help Apple better manage its bandwidth usage, as like NetFlix, Apple could simply promise to deliver your next selection overnight, letting them schedule delivery such that they’re not swamped at any given point in time.
And even overnight delivery lets them “one-up” NetFlix, since, at best, NetFlix needs 3 days to turn a disk around: one day to mail it back, one day in processing, and one more day for the new disk to show up in your mailbox.
With electronic delivery, processing can also continue over the weekend. With NetFlix, sending a disk back Friday means you’ll get the next one from your queue on Tuesday at the earliest.
The overnight option also places a firm physical limit on the number of films you can rent, something that will be an issue in any case. You’re not going to get an all-you-can-eat buffet for just $20 a month.
And the major problem that’s holding back digital video purchases?
Disk space and file management…
With Apple’s current system I buy a movie and download it. But since they don’t allow you to re-download content, it’s now up to me to manage my purchase. Buy enough movies at a gigabyte or so a pop, and the bytes start to add up.
Add a 24-episode TV series or two at 12GB each, and now we’re talking about some serious disk space. And it’s not even HD.
Quite a few mini’s and iMacs and MacBooks were sold with a mere 40GB or 80GB drive. Yes, you can add an external drive and wrangle your content into and out of iTunes, but it’s a pain in the rear to do so.
Further, now your content exists on a single external drive, and what happens when it goes belly up? Now we have to make backups of our backups?
There has to be a better way…
Rentals could help fill that gap. Rent a movie, watch it a few times, then zap it, and move on.
Want to watch it again a year or so down the road? Spend a few bucks and rent it again.
I’d do it just to NOT have to buy terabyte-sized backup drives.
So what do you think? Want to rent a movie?
[via Roughly Drafted]