Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A brief history of paying for movies (Part II). Well, not so much history, really.

Carrying on the theme of not really reaching any conclusions, I suppose I should wind up my ruminations on how one pays for movies (or videos, or other entertainment). The hypothesis emerging is that there are four main ways:
  • Per view (like, by going to a theater, or by ordering PPV)
  • By subscription (as with a premium cable channel, Netflix DVD service)
  • By short-term rental (for example, at the video store, cable on-demand)
  • By purchase (say, buying a DVD)
Do these exist on the web as well? Indeed they do. I haven't directly used PPV over the web, but I'm familiar with Netflix's "watch instantly" service and Amazon's rent/buy* scheme.

Can we compare the adoption of these models on the web with their adoption online? Not really. Technically, various forms of the various models have been around for a while, but until recently, relatively few people had enough bandwidth to care (as a US citizen/resident I'm well aware that it's been particularly recently here). At which point all four models turned up pretty quickly.

So while the historical comparison doesn't seem particularly instructive, it's interesting that the four existing models seem to have carried over fairly seamlessly.

*Amazon sells you the right to watch the material for as long as they provide it. Since it's tied to their DRM scheme, there are also restrictions on where you can watch it. Unlike a DVD, you can't pop it into a portable player or watch it in your car (while someone else drives, one would hope), and unlike a DVD, it's not up to you how long you keep it. I'm pretty sure the right is non-transferable, again unlike a DVD. But other than that it's just like buying a DVD.

This seems somehow not completely satisfying, but I've also seen mention of services that would sell you the right to download and (legally) burn a DVD of a movie for your own use. [What's a DVD? --D.H. May 2015]

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