When it comes to online content, streaming movies through services like Vudu, and Netflix’s “Watch it Now” the content makers are doing one of the best jobs of shotting themselves in the foot, and doing it with the up-most of consistency.
YouTube’s New Policy
Let’s look at the recent YouTube development first. This announcement pretty much comes on the heals of YouTube releasing 1080p (full HD) video on its site. Which means if I’m using something to stream YouTube to my HD television, I can get some streams in nice full HD, which makes it really nice to watch on my television. To a degree it makes sense. Especially if content makers are going to use YouTube to release content, they’ll definitely want a cut of the financial pie so Google has to take steps to ensure they somehow derive revenue from this. But not everything on YouTube is put up by Hollywood and there in lies the problem. There should be no issue with me streaming non-Hollywood content to my TV on an unapproved device. There’s a simple solution for this, YouTube could simply have a second API that you have to pay to get access to, leaving them with 1 public API and 1 private API. They’re already monitoring video uploads for copyrighted content and they take those takedown notices very seriously so there should be nothing stopping them from segregating what’s available to different APIs.
Hulu Blocks Boxee
Hulu actually has an argument. The point of Hulu is to watch TV shows on your computer and having to watch ads. Since the content on Hulu is provided by Hollywood, they can to some degree control how it’s viewed. It makes sense that these content makers would rather you watch TV shows on air or on a DVR where they can bombard you with commercials rather than having you watch it on your computer via Hulu where the number of commercials is limited. In the end though, the lack of being able to stream Hulu to my television is going to cost them viewers and with their recent announcement to start charging soon, Hulu is going to die faster than initially planned, unless they can ink deals with hardware makers and find their way onto things like Blu-Ray players (like Netflix).
Vudu & Netflix “Watch it Now”
Finally, something that makes zero sense. Movie studios purposefully hold back video from providers like Vudu and Netflix. Example, on Vudu if I want to rent the HDX version (near Blu-Ray quality video) on my LG Blu-Ray player, on many movies I have to wait a month after the movie is available to purchase. These studios do the same thing with Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” for newer movies. In fact, the Netflix instant watch feature is loaded with movies and television shows that are either old, B grade, or even just flat out unwatchable. Yes, there are some good titles available but they are generally the exception rather than the rule.
The logic behind this is that I won’t go and buy it if I can rent it for cheap. Which is completely the wrong thought process because really, if I’m iffy on a movie, I won’t buy it period. However, if I can rent it or see it cheaply (say Vudu streaming rental or Netflix “Watch it Now”) I’m more likely to buy it if I enjoy the flick. In fact I have purchased several movies due to seeing them using “old-fashioned” Netflix (you know, where you actually get a DVD in the mail).
All these companies are doing the same basic thing. They are limiting how we can watch content. They are dictating how we are allowed to watching something rather than letting the market tell them how we want to watch content.
They think that if they can control how we watch content they can in turn control how we buy it. And this is just backwards. Let the market figure out how it wants to watch content and then do that. Because long term, how the average consumer actually consumes content will change.