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ABC Affiliates Grapple With TV-Show Downloads 480

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the in-for-a-penny dept.
Carl Bialik writes "By making an episode of 'Lost' available for download last week just half a day after it aired, for a $1.99 charge, 'Apple may have helped open a Pandora's box for the media business,' the Wall Street Journal reports. The president of the association representing ABC's affiliate stations sent a letter to the president of ABC, reading in part, 'It is both disappointing and unsettling that ABC would embark on a new -- and competitive -- network program distribution partnership without the fundamental courtesy of consultation' with its affiliates. While the extent of Apple's TV downloads is limited, the Journal parses the potential impact: 'if downloading episodes over the Internet proves popular, analysts believe Apple will get permission to offer shows with better-fidelity pictures. Any success Apple has won't go unnoticed by other online media powerhouses with expanding video initiatives like Yahoo Inc., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., which could all help extend TV downloading to more viewers.'"
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ABC Affiliates Grapple With TV-Show Downloads

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  • Choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Monday October 17, 2005 @06:59PM (#13813200) Homepage Journal
    Thank you Apple! Once again this company (along with ABC this time) has the stones to step up and offer a service that is a market primed to explode. The iTMS has proven to be a good long tail [thelongtail.com] business model for the distribution of music, offering popular and otherwise out of print or hard to find (Indie) tracks that are simply unavailable in the large retail outlets. I have not watched much TV in the past while, but having the iTMS model of distribution for TV shows that are out of syndication or are otherwise hard to obtain would be a tremendous boon. And if Ted Turner would get on the ball, all sorts of older movies could also be made available via this model, that would increase revenues over what they are making by the current limited access to the media. Documentaries, "foreign" (to the US) films, and indie films could make it truly big by talking to Apple. Sundance Channel and TCM, you are the big guys in this market......So, are you paying attention? And for you TIVOheads out there, in essence, if this propagates to the rest of the industry, this will be a centralized TIVO allowing you to pick and choose without having to take the time to program, and like the article said, this could make the ala carte system moot. Who knows, this could even open up the option of letting us pay for content that is without commercials or get it for "free" if we agree to watch the commercials. It's could simply be our choice.

    P.S., Ted, thanks for the buffalo ranching, but there is more money to be made still in media. Don't give up.

    • Thank you Apple! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SectoidRandom (87023) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:18PM (#13813302) Homepage
      Yes, Thank you Apple! Finnally someone has done what the consumers have been screaming for for years! So many nay-sayers look at the iPod Video and say it is some gimmick, but what they dont realise is exactly this pandoras box being opened!

      The day when I can download my latest episodes of SG1 or my girlfriends O.C for $1.99 rather than wait 6-9months for it to come on TV in the UK is the day that I stop using eMule!

      Thank you Apple you found the only way to stop priacy.
      • Yes, Thank you Apple! Finnally someone has done what the consumers have been screaming for for years! So many nay-sayers look at the iPod Video and say it is some gimmick, but what they dont realise is exactly this pandoras box being opened!

        I've seen perhaps a half-dozen naysayers in total and an overwhelming majority praising Apple as if they've just solved world hunger. Where do you get the idea that "so many nay-sayers" are calling this a gimmick? Is there a special thread for naysayers that I have

      • by Anonymous Writer (746272) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:23AM (#13815410)

        The day when I can download my latest episodes of SG1 or my girlfriends O.C for $1.99 rather than wait 6-9months for it to come on TV in the UK is the day that I stop using eMule!

        I doubt that you will be able to do that, even with TV shows available on iTMS. I think that TV shows are still going to follow regional distribution and will only be released in a country's iTMS after it is aired in that country, even if it is already available in the iTMS of another country. The TV shows are only available in the US iTMS at the moment, and not in the UK iTMS. Even when the other countries get TV shows in their iTMS, they may still not be as up-to-date as the US store.

        I think one of the reasons the record companies have co-operated so well with the iTMS is because it preserves the regional distribution business model their industry is based on, which just so happens to be the same model for the film and television industries. And if you think about it, the iTMS regional distribution method somewhat resembles DVD region coding, so it most likely will be used in the same manner.

        • Re:Thank you Apple! (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Clod9 (665325)
          I've noticed that theatrical releases are moving more towards simultaneous distribution in all countries. I'm sure the show producers will still want to use regional price-fixing, as they do now with DVD region coding, but I suspect that, as media conglomerates continue to consolidate around the globe, the delays in distribution will be shortened.
          Once they start making real money with online distribution, they'll speed things up in order to take your money that much faster.
      • by nanoakron (234907) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:49AM (#13815663)
        Said it before and I'll say it again.

        US: $1.99 per movie
        UK: £1.89 per movie. That's US$3.33 for fuck's sake.

        That's not price parity, that is gouging.

        -Nano.
      • Re:Thank you Apple! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lumpy (12016)
        Funny part is that I have been doing this for over 1.5 years now. my replay TV I use a linux java app to extract automatically the shows that I need potable, then use linux tools to compress them down to the size my archos gmini 400 likes to have them at. I simply plug in and upload (just like itunes users) and can fit 20gigs of tv shows, movies, etc on the portable player for my enjoyment.

        apple is simply making it so you can spend $1.99 instead of a couple of hours scripting to get the shows you want.

        Hell
      • by gwhenning (693443)
        And I thought we were all screaming for Ice Cream .
        Boy did I get that wrong.

        The one thing that is seriously missing from the equation is DVDs. Since the video can't be burned I would like to have the ability to put my DVD collection into iTunes. One click and it downloads the video into Apples copy protected format. I can put them on my iPod and take them with me when I travel. When I get to my destination I plug into a TV with the supplied cable and viola the kids can watch their DVDs. I honestly
    • Re:Choice (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Douglas Simmons (628988) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:20PM (#13813311) Homepage
      Choice? Stones? Everywhere I look, I see those white headphones. Everybody has one, and because people get it working when they pop that CD in their machine, they are quite inclined to use the iTunes service as that's laid out seemlessly. They dominate one market, mp3 players, and with that leverage they have dominated the online music market (don't tell me iTunes has 90% because it's just that good). Reminds me a little about how the DoJ was a bit concerned when Microsoft made it a little too seemless to go from their OS functions to web browsing.

      I'm a fan of Apple (just bought some shares too), but am I the only one who thinks that Apple's threat lurking in the far dark future might be antitrust litigation? I only see them grabbing more marketshare of the devices, of the online music business, not to mention that they just created another market with this portable device video clip downloading. It's clear they're only going uphill and accelerating too, but even though Apple's been that underdog company to Microsoft, the engine that could, they're not immune from the government.

      • Re:Choice (Score:5, Funny)

        by DrEldarion (114072) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:37PM (#13813394)
        Silence! Apple can do no wrong!

        Sheesh, next thing ya know he'll be badmouthing Google.
        • Re:Choice (Score:4, Funny)

          by BorgCopyeditor (590345) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:24PM (#13813628)
          next thing ya know he'll be badmouthing Google.

          I'll bite.

          Does the introduction of blogsearch.google.com mean that content on whatever Google deems a blog is being segregated from the rest of the Internet? Try cutting and pasting a phrase from your favorite A-list blog into Google's regular search: nada. Try putting it in blogsearch: voila!

          obTinfoilHat: This has happend because pressures from mainstream political parties (you know who you are) drove Google to make blog content effectively invisible to your average searcher after truth, given how influential (and unregulated, forsooth!) political blogs have become.

          • Re:Choice (Score:5, Insightful)

            by TheVoice900 (467327) <kamil@[ ]ilkisiel.net ['kam' in gap]> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @12:23AM (#13814663) Homepage
            Or maybe Google is just responding to all the people like myself who are tired of finding a zillion blog crosslinks copying the same entry when searching for something, with my actual search result buried 3 pages in to the search.
      • Re:Choice (Score:5, Informative)

        by btobin (906080) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:04PM (#13813532)
        don't tell me iTunes has 90% because it's just that good

        Itunes has 90% of the market because they have more music than anybody else. That's the thing about the long tail. You have to have A LOT of stuff in order to capture that last 50% of the market. Example: Last night I was looking for Julie Miller on Yahoo (my service of choice because I'm cheap). Two songs. Itunes has her whole catalog, four CDs worth.

        • Re:Choice (Score:3, Funny)

          by Tony Hoyle (11698)
          I had 3 albums of hers 10 years ago (none of which are available on itunes). You're not suggesting that she's not produced anything for 10 years (I haven't *heard* anything... she never seemed to go anywhere musically and I got bored, but I'd be surprised if she upped sticks and gave up). Indeed, musicmatch lists 6 albums, not 4.

          itunes lists 6 songs of her stuff, and none of her solo albums. Pity, since this post reminded me I kinda liked "He walks through walls" and wouldn't mind another copy (the later
      • by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:05PM (#13813538) Journal
        Yeah, the way Apple has exploited their dominance of the OS market to take over the downloadable music market and the MP3 market is pretty heinous and I'm sure the DOJ is keeping a close eye on them. And the creation of a new market of downloading video clips! That's just the sort of unfair business practice to which the DOJ pays close attention. Reminds me exactly of how MS has bullied PC makers to maintain its monopoly.

        Er, wait.
      • Re:Choice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Decameron81 (628548) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:48PM (#13813710)
        "Choice? Stones? Everywhere I look, I see those white headphones."


        That's because those headphones are great.

        The point you are missing is huge: Apple is gaining a big group of followers simply by giving them what they want, and not through "evil" means.

        Lower your weapons and think again. Popular doesn't mean evil.
      • Re:Choice (Score:3, Insightful)

        by moosesocks (264553)
        The difference here is that iTunes is a very good product, while the early versions of IE sucked.

        Sure, apple's doing the exact same thing as Microsoft, but you don't see people making a fuss because people are apparently quite fond of iTunes. Additionally, I think that seamless intrgration of desktop applications into the Operating System is becoming a given.

        Go ask a mac developor what he'd do without quicktime, or ask a windows developer what he'd do without mshtml.dll.

        Also, you don't see apple entering i
        • Re:Choice (Score:5, Informative)

          by Macgrrl (762836) on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:58PM (#13814035)

          As far as I see it, the only anti-competitive behavior apple's shown is their proprietary encrypted-AAC fileformat.

          AFAIK this was a requirement by the record labels before they would permit digital distribution of the music files. So is the anti-competitive behaviour Apple's or the RIAA cartel's?

          • Re:Choice (Score:3, Informative)

            by Ahnteis (746045)
            I'm fairly certain that the RIAA required DRM, not proprietary file formats. (looks at all the other music stores which use DRM but in an openly licenseable format.)
      • Re:Choice (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica (681592)
        Hey, I'd rather risk Apple becoming a monopoly in the future than help sustain Microsoft's one today!
      • Re:Choice (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mabhatter654 (561290)
        Apple doesn't have a monololy on anything except iPods. That's the difference. Remember, all that music store "competition" out there is only 2 players... Microsoft and by a long shot Real. All the other stores, napster, musicmatch, dell, walmart, yahoo, etc.. are all part of the Microsoft cabal. If you look at microsoft's intentions for x360, you'd see they're just setting up the "market" so they can gobble it up at will and shut everyone out.

        The difference is that Apple has one really big store...

    • Re:Choice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zocalo (252965) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:34PM (#13813378) Homepage
      I couldn't agree more, and kudos to ABC for being one of the first TV media companies to break ranks and try and embrace the inevitable future as well. Now if Apple can get other studios onboard and also flatten the staggered global release schedule for new series (which is completely pointless on a digital distribution network) then media nirvana can take a step closer. What on *earth* have the execs at the affiliates being doing the past few years that they've missed the fact that the music business in is absolute turmoil over digital distribution? They can hardly claim that they were so busy producing Reality and Car-Crash TV shows that they didn't realise the inevitability that they were next and Hollywood is going to follow.

      Feh, who am I kidding. That's exactly what they are going to do, all the while frantically trying to buy legislation to protect their business model, no matter how shortsighted and dumb it makes them look.

      • Re:Choice (Score:5, Informative)

        by badasscat (563442) <[basscadet75] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:16PM (#13813836)
        What on *earth* have the execs at the affiliates being doing the past few years that they've missed the fact that the music business in is absolute turmoil over digital distribution? They can hardly claim that they were so busy producing Reality and Car-Crash TV shows that they didn't realise the inevitability that they were next and Hollywood is going to follow.

        You (along with everyone else) have apparently completely forgotten about the concept of VOD. In fact, there is nothing new whatsoever about downloading TV shows! I've got about 50 different channels on my cable box that allow me to do this whenever I want to, and at higher resolutions than iTMS.

        The downloading, and the idea of digital distribution, is not new at all. And you're way, way off if you think the affiliates have not been working with the networks on this for years now. The only thing that's new about iTunes and TV shows is the act of putting it on an iPod. Is this really so revolutionary? I would argue that it's not. True, the iPod has never had video before, but plenty of other devices have, and I've been able to download episodes of my favorite TV shows for years now over my cable company's digital VOD system, transfer them to my PC and put them on whatever video device I want to.

        Now, you can say "but it's going to bring downloading to the masses!" Well again, VOD is already quite popular. Almost everybody has it (whether they even know it or not) and all that's missing is a quick and easy way to transfer those shows to a portable device (sans PC). But that's a trivial thing to add - all cable boxes these days have high speed data ports of one type or another, and the cable industry's just been waiting for a reason to use them. Well, this might be it - if the cable industry feels truly threatened by iTunes, watch for them to open the floodgates.

        I'm not arguing that what Apple's doing isn't a good thing or that it won't push the industry forward. But I don't see how downloading episodes of Lost for $1.99 a piece at 320x240 resolution beats what I've got on my cable box, which has thousands of TV shows available at any given moment for free. (Or at least for no more than I pay for standard cable service.)

        In the future, you're more likely to keep your cable company and use them for downloads than you are to switch to iTunes. The TV networks have been pushing VOD forward for years and while iTMS may hasten the transition, the cable and network TV industry are pretty well prepared.
        • by SuperKendall (25149) * on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @12:50AM (#13814743)
          "Why, what Apple is doing is being done today! Anyone who has cable - well that is digital cable - well that is digital cable with VOD - can do the same thing today. Although if they want to keep it I guess they have to figure out how to hook up a compute rto the cable box."

          Apple has never been about doing things that are totally new. They just take things people would like to do and make them inviting for everyone to actually partake of.

    • Re:Choice (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SangoDaze (78611)
      I agree, bravo Apple. I don't have a TV since I live in a rural area and could never justify the cost of cable or a dish. I would definitely pay $2 to download a show that I heard people talking about at work though, or even better, a sports event. In my case the network is accessing a customer that they never would have been able to reach before which cannot be bad for their bottom line.
      • Re:Choice (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Spy Hunter (317220) * on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:00PM (#13814043) Journal
        Really the ones you should be thanking are ABC. They had the balls to finally let somebody try real Internet distribution. Miraculously they didn't form a cartel with the other big networks to make unreasonable demands, they didn't go around "consulting" everybody to see if they thought it was a good idea, they put their biggest hits on the line, they didn't include ads, and they agreed on a quite reasonable price. ABC had all the power here and they did the right thing with it.

        As for Apple's part of this deal, I downloaded Lost and my first impression was that iTunes is a terrible video player, at least on Windows. Not merely bad, but terrible. It crashes, it freezes for a second or more every time you click on something (including the seek bar, which makes it practically unusable), its user interface is completely unsuited for video, it glitches when it's not the top window, it seems to choose random brightness/contrast settings for each video (or perhaps that's just bad encoding), when downloading and watching videos at the same time it randomly pauses and skips for periods of 5 seconds or more (invariably at an important moment in the dialogue), I could go on and on. And of course you can't use any other video player because of the DRM (which AFAIK hasn't been cracked yet), unless you have a video iPod (I don't). I downloaded a BitTorrent copy to compare and the quality was *far* better, not to mention that it was in its native widescreen format (showing more of the action), and I could use a video player that didn't suck.

        I still plan to buy Lost as it comes out to support legal TV downloads and because I have faith that Apple will soon fix iTunes, but when I want to actually watch those episodes I'm going to use BitTorrent.

        • Re:Choice (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rsborg (111459)
          Really the ones you should be thanking are ABC. They had the balls to finally let somebody try real Internet distribution. Miraculously they didn't form a cartel with the other big networks to make unreasonable demands, they didn't go around "consulting" everybody to see if they thought it was a good idea, they put their biggest hits on the line, they didn't include ads, and they agreed on a quite reasonable price. ABC had all the power here and they did the right thing with it.

          Connect the dots together,ma

        • Re:Choice (Score:3, Informative)

          by dave1212 (652688)
          Just use the QuickTime Player app, works fine. Also you can try changing the video prefs in iTunes to view in a separate window.
    • Re:Choice (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Duncan3 (10537)
      iTunes made the album obsolete, no more paying for 10 pieces of crap to get one song.

      This latest move threatens to make the TV station obsolete, and has cable scared shitless. 100 channels, and all I really care about is CNBC, and about 6 shows. 6 shows will be WAY cheaper then the monthly bill eventually (1.99 per episode can't last long, it's insane).

      And we can all pre-order more episodes of a show, so they can MAKE THEM and not more crap.
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@@@gmail...com> on Monday October 17, 2005 @06:59PM (#13813201) Journal

    Sometimes I want to pull my hair out!

    Exactly how is this bad for the affiliate stations? For a nano second I can't imagine this didn't help these affiliates. How much you wanna bet the viewership was up for the episode of Lost following the announcement of the video iPod? Peoples' normal reactions would be along the lines of:

    • What is so special about Lost that Apple actually singled it out as one of the shows downloadable to their new device? (and, when is it on so I can watch it, too?)
    • Oh yeah, Lost! Kind of forgot about that show. I think maybe I'll watch it again.
    • (and for the consumers "stolen" from the affiliates): I so thoroughly enjoyed watching Lost on my iPod, I really need to sit down with the family and watch it on a real system.

    I don't think any of the above are off-the-scale guesses of peoples' reactions and I think the viewership because of the video iPod could actually increase!

    But, let's assume the death star, end-of-the-universe scenario the affiliates and others see this as. They see this as a threat rather than an extension. So, if it is true, boo-hoo!

    Thank goodness the lobbyists and power brokers circling the wagons today for the hapless industry wasn't present in the late 19th and early 20th century to protect the horse and buggy industry in the same way... We'd have no cars today (since that would have threatened the established travel industry).

    (So, for the record, does anyone know what the comparison was for Lost pre- vs. post-video iPod announcement? I don't really care, but it'd be interesting to know.)

    • by gnu-sucks (561404) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:06PM (#13813234) Journal
      You are correct for the moment, but once this catches on, people will realize it is a better, more enjoyable method of entertainment.

      Forget tivo. This is it.

      As far as I'm concerned, the modern day affiliate station is a simple load-balancing device.

      The funeral for tivo will be held tomorrow evening, 2100 hours, at 1, infinity loop, Cupertino, CA.

      Affiliate stations: BE AFRAID :D
    • by MacDork (560499) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:25PM (#13813333) Journal
      Thank goodness the lobbyists and power brokers circling the wagons today for the hapless industry wasn't present in the late 19th and early 20th century to protect the horse and buggy industry in the same way... We'd have no cars today (since that would have threatened the established travel industry).

      Lobbyists are not a new invention. It appears the term was coined in the early 19th century. [alldc.org] It's a shame really. If they were a recent invention, someone would have patented the business method and then we would at least be free of them for about 20 years ;-)

    • by smallpaul (65919) <(paul) (at) (prescod.net)> on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:25PM (#13813334)

      That particular episode of Lost is irrelevant in the big picture. The issue is whether the network is going to undercut its affiliates by building an alternate distribution model.

      • Undercut (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Atario (673917)
        The issue is whether the network is going to undercut its affiliates by building an alternate distribution model.
        I wish someone would.
    • Networks are freaking out over this because it has the possibility of messing with the status-quo.

      The business model is that shows are only available as a television broadcast or DVD purchase. Sure, you have Tivo, but that's still television.

      Now, you're taking the content of television and putting it onto a new medium: the digital medium. Networks are going to throw up rad flags, thinking "WE'RE GOING TO LOSE MONEY! FUCK!"

      Then again, digital content is a hot-topic issue (see: illegal use of P2P apps). Th
    • How much you wanna bet the viewership was up for the episode of Lost following the announcement of the video iPod?

      What support do you have for this theory? To the affiliates this is maybe a small short-term increase (based on general Lost hype) in exchange for a very real threat of medium-term losses and long-term annihilation.

      The affiliates should be scared, because today's TV mechanism is silly and out of date. The very idea of a "channel" is meaningless. And the advertisers are paying approx. $1

    • I dont see how your reasoning holds for the long run. Yes they probably got a boost from the extra press, but in the long run that's not going to keep happening. That's not to say it couldnt help the networks. But the help will come from new viewers who download a few episodes then decide that they like it well enough to watch it with better quality a day earlier than it's available online.

      You characterized the affiliates as whiners but you have to remember that they've signed long term contracts with ABC t
    • Exactly how is this bad for the affiliate stations?

      TV stations make money by showing ads. TV stations that sign up to be an affiliate for a network do so for the purpose of having access to the network content that the networks produce so that they can draw in viewers. A hot show can draw in a lot of local viewers which means that more money can be charged for ad slots during those shows. Less people watching their station during a show means that they might not be able to charge as much money for a

    • Apple will delay releasing new episodes until one week after they're broadcast. Therefore, people will flock to the affiliates to see it a week earlier. Sounds like a win.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:01PM (#13813205)
    "It is unsettling that ABC has chosen to act as an independent agent in a free market, rather than subjecting its decisions to cartel politics. ABC's rash action opens up an incredible Pandora's box; once we start provide the customers with what they want at prices they are willing to pay, who knows where THAT dangerous path might end?"
    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:55PM (#13813495)
      ABC has chosen to act as an independent agent in a free market, rather than subjecting its decisions to cartel politics.

      Don't for a moment think that affiliate demands on the network are all one-sided. Maintaining affiliate status means a station has to comply with all kinds of rules set by the network too.

      ABC is not simply acting as an independent agent, they are, in some sense, unilaterally re-writing their contracts with their affiliates. I would be damn pissed too if one of my clients decided that they could get away with rewriting our contract, in their favor, with no negotiation.

      I agree that the net has changed things and it is high-fucking-time the television industry started to catch up, but don't go thinking ABC or even Apple is the white hat in this episode of the drama - its a lot more complex than that.
  • by cyberbob2010 (312049) <cyberbob2010@techie.com> on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:01PM (#13813210) Homepage Journal
    I could still just download it via bittorrent for free.....
    • Re:....oooooooooor (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jomas1 (696853)
      " I could still just download it via bittorrent for free..... "

      Once upon a time when bittorent was new I'd agree with you. I the Bablyon 5 Pilot Movie in 15 minutes back then. Today it would probably take me 20 hours to download. What Apple is attempting could still fill a niche because I'm not waiting a 20 hours to watch something I want to see on a whim.
      • Guess you're not on the right torrent sites... public trackers like mininova/suprnova/etc are as slow as you described but there are plenty of ratio'ed/private sites that tv shows/movies can be downloaded from very quickly. Last night I grabbed episode 8 of Rome in under 15 minutes, maxed out my connection at 500KB/sec. Try signing up for bitmetv.org or filelist.org or something like that, if they're accepting new users.
  • New Business Model (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NotMyNickName (922171) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:02PM (#13813214)
    Business models change over time. Companies can either attempt to adjust their business models to take advantage of those changes or try to fight those changes (RIAA). If the TV companies were smart and downloading shows of the internet proves to be the "wave of the future" they need to find a way to take advantage of that instead of trying to stop it.
    • by fullon604 (895424)
      This reminds me of Ayn Rand's "We The Living" in which the protagonist (re)discovers electricity and is hounded out of town by the candle-manufacturing industrialists who claim that his invention will put them out of business. The network affiliates can go suck lemons if they think people should adhere to an old model for the sake of tradition.
  • Ding Dong . . . (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ndansmith (582590) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:03PM (#13813218)
    . . . broadcast TV is dead. Or is this another Wolf-cry like VHS destroying the theater business or catalogs (or the internet) closing every mall in America?
    • I wouldn't go so far as to say it's dead. In fact, I would say it might even grow. However, it's rental companies such as Blockbuster Video that will feel the impact of this new market!
    • broadcast TV is dead. Or is this another Wolf-cry like VHS destroying the theater business or catalogs (or the internet) closing every mall in America?

      I can actually see this killing, or at least severly hurting, the local affiliates. Unlike VHS and the internet, this type of selling is very close to the original way of doing business.

      VHS didn't do much as it took months for the movie to come out on VHS after theatres. Additionaly, some people want to see movies on an 80 foot screen versus their TV.
  • Advertisement Woes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digid (259751) * on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:04PM (#13813227)
    Advertising, in my opinion, is a huge reason behind the controversy. The traditional distribution model allows media outlets to force consumers to have interrupted commercial sessions. With a single point of exit media outlets can statistically figure out how much viewership they have and set appropriate advertising rates. Now that ABC has broken the mold its causes much concern among affiliates on the future of advertising rates and whether they can still drive as much revenue. Of course I'm just speculating.

    Most of national advertising rates fluctuate as they are based off of current Nielsen ratings which samples viewing habits year round. However local advertising rates are set for a yearly basis based off the TV audience during a specific period 4 times a year(Sweeps Week). With a smaller audience watching TV through this traditional method local affiliates lose a huge chunk of ad revenue.
    • Of course I'm just speculating.

      You are absolutely correct.

      The TV ad game is a constant push-me-pull-you between the agencies and the networks. The advertisers are all, "You expect me to pay WHAT for a :30 spot?" and the nets are all, "Look we have the stats that prove that this show consistently delivers the precise demographic of single-testicled malt-liquor drinking Asian males between the ages of 24 and 32 with annual incomes over $250K that your product positively SCREAMS out for, dude!"

      Given another o
  • by Jace of Fuse! (72042) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:04PM (#13813228) Homepage
    They can stop crying and start getting ready for it. If they don't fill the demand, someone will. As soon as I can have a high speed internet connection without the help of either the local cable company or telephone company then I'll be free of both.

    At that point, any content I can't get online, I simply will do without. Sell me entertainment online, or sell me nothing. It makes no difference to me. There's plenty of free and legal clips of amusement here and there at least as worthwhile as the junk they air on TV anyway.

    Besides, I find reading books and doing technical reading online is a better use of my time than watching television in the first place.
  • hah wtf! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436)
    it's comments like this that betray these media companys for the blood sucking parasites they really are. a comparable example would be dell asking walmart if it's ok for them to sell a new low budget computer, just in case they might be under cutting walmart and hurting their business.

    it's incredable these people haven't be investigated for anti competitive behaviour yet.

    • Re:hah wtf! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zakezuke (229119)
      it's comments like this that betray these media companys for the blood sucking parasites they really are. a comparable example would be dell asking walmart if it's ok for them to sell a new low budget computer, just in case they might be under cutting walmart and hurting their business.

      Not exactly. Local affiliates pay for the right to rebroadcast content. Now ABC is comming along and saying that they will by-pass the local affiliates and sell content directly.

      They have every reason to be annoyed. What w
  • by Onan (25162) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:09PM (#13813253)
    What was ABC thinking, doing something as offensive and inexcusable as making content available to consumers in a more convenient yet still-lucrative form? Absolutely unforgivable!

    Really, this seems like a very self-regulating situation. If consumers enjoy and respond to this offering, then both content producers and consumers have a great new option, and neither one of them owes previous distribution channels a damn thing. If people don't care for the new format, then existing distribution channels continue to maintain their position and profits.

    Obviously this has a strong chance of being a bad deal for advertising-driven distribution in the long term. But even if it is, the notion that content producers had any obligation to avoid it out of mere politeness is absurd.

    I wonder when we'll see FedEx and UPS complaining that offering software for download--rather than shipping CDs--was a very rude thing for the software industry to begin doing without so much as a by-your-leave.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) * on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:11PM (#13813262)
    People love Tivos. But if you look at why, it's simply because it takes a broadcast show and turns it into real digital media that you can do the normal things digital media allows, like scnaning or random access.

    It makes no sense any longer for people to do ANYTHING but download shows and access the contents as they please, when they please. That's what Apple is opening up to the mass market for current TV, and what people will most naturally except. Fighting this migration is a loosing battle.

    I really feel like as cool as Tivo is, it's trapped between a rock and a hard place. The rock are media companies that are unsure about people being able to record anything. The hard place is when people discover they like random media so much, they'd rather just download everything and use it that way. Apple is taking over the space Tivo could have if they'd started looking at a downloadable TV market.
    • by TBone (5692) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:11PM (#13813562) Homepage

      ...you're going to tell me how Apple is going to cram a 35 inch screen inside your iPod case.

      OK, so you can take your episode of Lost with you, and watch it on your pocket TV. Pocket TVs have been around for...what, more than a decade? How many people do you know stopped buying 25, 32, 50 inch TVs for their house, and multi-thousand dollar sound systems to plug those TVs into, because, well golly gee, now they can put their TV in their pocket.

      iPod TV downloads and TiVo solve different problems related to TV viewing. The new iPod service lets you take portable TV shows with you. TiVo lets you time shift, search and archive, and if you have the personal motivation to set up TivoToGo and upgrade your PocketPC handheld with the right WMP software, take portable TV shows with you.

      So really, the only thing the new iPod/ABC service does is remove the requirement that your TiVo be available at the time the show comes on the TV. Of course, it's not like you actually have to do anything to make your TiVo record...just set up the season pass, and they'll be there, assuming the show aired in the first place.

      All the iPod/ABC service does is remove the requirement for the show to have aired at its original time. And it still has the shortcoming of only being watchable on a screen that, at it's best, is less than a quarter the size of the smallest laptop I've used in the last 5 years.

      I wouldn't start the funeral dirge for PVRs and PVR services yet. Not unless that's a TV in your pocket, and not just that you're happy to see me.

  • Quality (Score:4, Interesting)

    by afaik_ianal (918433) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:15PM (#13813281)
    When I originally read about this, I wondered what the quality would be like. A brief googling suggests that the files are about 150-200MB, which seems like the quality should be better than I was expecting.

    Does anyone have any first hand experience with the downloaded episodes? How is the quality on a pc or tv screen?
    • Pretty good (Score:3, Informative)

      by SuperKendall (25149) *
      The resolution is not that high but the bitrate is pretty good... I would say it looks better than VHS, perhaps not quite as good as a digital satellite connection airing the original. I bought the first episode of Lost just to try it out (and see if I really want to buy the DVD set), and it's more than watchable to me.

      I really look forward to when they start offering pay-per-download HDTV shows.
    • Re:Quality (Score:3, Informative)

      by Spy Hunter (317220) *
      I bought Lost. The quality of the videos is merely okay. It's definitely watchable even on a regular-size TV, nothing like the old postage-stamp RealPlayer clips of yore. But it really pales in comparison to the BitTorrent version. Plus the BitTorrent version is widescreen. In Apple's version background details are often blurred (especially busy jungle and ocean wave backgrounds) and color banding is occasionally noticable.

      The color banding problem is made much much worse by something which could be

  • It looks like slowly but surely, we are getting to see the future of entertainment in this country... no more being forced to sit through annoying commercials, but just being able to watch what we really want... It would be worth it to me, to pay a small price each month, to not have to see commercials ever, and just watch the content only... Not to mention, if we could just click and choose what we wanted to watch, that would be far better, then being stuck with the static content we have now... Imagine
  • by MMHere (145618) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:16PM (#13813289)
    With enough money paid to the right powerful people, big rich corporations like ClearChannel will pay someone to solve the issue of closing this supposedly "uncloseable" Pandora's box.
    • Oh no, what will Walt Disney do when it is confronted by the monster that is ClearChannel? What can ClearChannel do, lobby Washington with more money than ABC can to make it illegal for ABC to sell shows over the internet?
  • Okay, I get the fact that they feel slighted because ABC didn't tell them they were doing this.

    However, why the hell would the Affiliates even care? They still get the first airing of the show and thats the important airing. After that, their add buys are so crazy low anyways, what does it matter if I can get it for $1.99 online? If the Affiliates really want to do something, they should learn and start making things like local news casts available online for say $.50 or free with 2-3 min of comercials i
  • PVR to Ipod (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dduardo (592868)
    Why pay $1.99 per episode when you can just take the video you saved using Mythtv and download it to your ipod. You could even take out the commercials if you like.

    I could see Tivo making out well if they made it easy for ipod video users to sync to their PVR.
    • Re:PVR to Ipod (Score:5, Insightful)

      by andygrace (564210) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:34PM (#13813377)
      Why pay $1.99 per episode when you can just take the video you saved using Mythtv and download it to your ipod.

      Because for many consumers it is simply too hard to set up the computer to record the show, edit out the commercials, compress it in a suitable format and copy it across to the player. Then there is even a subset of geeks like me that can easily do it but just couldn't be bothered.

      It's TV after all; a bit of entertainment after a hard day at work. I just want to watch the show, not muck around with recordings, having to preview it by editing out commercials first etc. For $2 - I'll pay that!

      With the same logic, why spend up to $5 at Starbucks to buy a coffee when I could just buy some beans, grind them myself, brew, froth the milk, and serve for next to nothing?

      There will always be smart people like yourself willing to go the extra mile to save a buck, but the majority simply don't care.

  • I don't watch much TV; most weeks it's less than 2 hrs. I enjoy Battlestar Galactica but shuffling my week around the TV schedule (or even shuffling it around time to be at home to watch a recorded version) is not convenient. If I could catch it on an iPod or laptop then I'd watch it... and I like the show enough that I'd fork out $2 per episode. Sounds like Apple has a solution for me.
  • by voss (52565) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:22PM (#13813321)
    Network affiliates are the roadkill of the information superhighway.
    Once broadband reaches 25mbps there is no reason for a separate tv connection.
    The tv networks will become what UPN has already a dumping ground for
    tv viewers who are Old and poor.

    The networks however have a saving grace, they can still outcompete
    itunes. People will happily accept commercials in their tv programs
    if they get the programs for FREE...history has already proven this.

    There is no technical reason people cant simply download their favorite
    programs and watch them with commericals for free or commerical free
    for an additional fee.

    This would actually free up networks ro produce programs audiences wanted
    instead of programs affiliates wanted...programs that could be targeted
    to niche audiences rather than lowest common denominator.

  • by MMHere (145618) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:24PM (#13813327)
    When will pervasive broadband, peer-to-peer sharing, and availability of downloadable digital media start to improve the quality of the media/content that is available, not just the delivery mechanism via which that content gets to me?

    "Lost?" Come on. I don't even watch that stuff on TV let alone waste bits from my broadband connection to download it...

    Produce something worth watching and I'll go back to watching TV.

    • Sturgeon's Law says this will never happen. However, the ITMS will give you the ability to cherrypick only the things you want to watch instead of paying for a full cable subscription.

      You cannot "solve" creativity by throwing more resources at it; advancing technology will never change that fact.

      (Care to give us an example of what you will deign to watch, so we can understand why you pooh-pooh one of the best shows on TV right now?)
  • by Josh Coalson (538042) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:28PM (#13813356) Homepage
    'It is both disappointing and unsettling that ABC would embark on a new -- and competitive -- network program distribution partnership without the fundamental courtesy of consultation' with its affiliates.

    dude, you've just been dumped for somebody hotter.

  • Oh the horror (Score:3, Interesting)

    by multiplexo (27356) * on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:30PM (#13813360) Journal
    Local TV affiliates, which are incredibly profitable businesses that manage to satisfy their public service obligations by airing local TV news shows that have become so idiotic that they are impossible to parody any more and the occasional PSA telling you "Don't suspect a friend, turn him in." might lose out on part of their revenue stream. "Waaaahhhh, we're big media, consumers owe us a living.". Call 1-976-CRY-BABY (279-2229), it's two bucks a minute, but you can whine about that too.

    Here's a wacky idea, rather than just rebroadcasting network crap, why don't local affiliates actually produce quality programming of their own that they could sell on the iTunes video service. Believe it or not they used to do this sort of thing back in the day. Oh wait, that would require them to work, which is much harder than sitting on your ass and making a lot of money by squatting on publicly owned airwaves.

  • by Hamster Lover (558288) * on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:30PM (#13813361) Journal
    Quote: If downloading episodes over the Internet proves popular...

    Uh, what do they mean if? It's already exceedingly popular on BitTorrent and the like, just not sanctioned by the media companies until now (OK, the BBC is doing it but not many others). The genie is already out of this bottle and yet another industry wants to bury it's head in the sand. They have to realize that people, including myself, are willing to pay money to see shows we've missed or cannot get in our area. Where's a capitalist when you need one? Steve Jobs yet again has pulled off a marvelous coup and now the affliates, Hollywood, SAG and anyone else who didn't have the forsight to start this on there own want a piece.
    • I think it's that "our area" that is the major driving force behind the popularity of BitTorrent TV downloads, especially when you look at the global scope. I download US TV episodes all the time since I'm in the UK and the chances of me avoiding all spoilers for the 18 months or so it takes US shows to get to over the pond is pretty much nil, if they make it at all. I still watch the UK airings for the higher video quality, and I still buy the DVDs for some of the shows, so the studios most definitely ar
  • iTorrent? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 3770 (560838) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:41PM (#13813415) Homepage
    This is slightly more technical, but I've been wondering about if they are going to offer up a torrent style iTunes client. This could be a tremendeous boon for for instance podcasts, and video podcasts in general. Maybe only for free content but still.

    Sure, many wouldn't be able to figure out how to open up their firewall, but enough people would, that it would make a tremendous difference for some poor podcaster. It will likely let them cut their provider bill in half. Or they could reach 10 times as many people for the same cost. They could even make sure that all their friends have seeds before they release the podcast, that way they don't even really need a server provider (not of the type where you need to know how many GB per month you are allowed).

    This would also be a tremendous benefit for Apple since being on iTunes definitely would be the shiznat for all the podcasters because now it also has a very direct benefit for them.

    Also, if they did the torrent thing then they would get some serious Google type respect from geeks. Apple would be credited for making decentralized file sharing mainstream.

    I can't even think of a down side. Can someone slap me out of this?
    • Re:iTorrent? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tm2b (42473)
      I can think of one big down side... I can see it now:

      Apple [slashdot.org]: Stealing your bandwidth for their profit?
      Posted by Zonk [slashdot.org] on Mon 17 Mar 05:33PM
      from the if-it-bleeds-it-leads dept.

      Seriously, people might not be thrilled about donating their upstream bandwidth to help defray's Apple's bandwidth costs... and I guarantee you that some people will frame it that way.

  • by nunchux (869574) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:43PM (#13813426)
    The record labels are horrible beasts, but at least we know where we stand with them-- they own a song outright and have ultimate say as to what can be done and what the price should be. Television shows, on the other hand, are based on many complicated deals that extend far into the the future-- and they have to be, because there are a lot of people (and companies) involved in a production who all want their share of potential revenue. It's not all about the first run ad dollars.

    "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" are Touchstone productions, so Disney has a lot more control over their distribution. That's not always or even often the case-- many times a network works with a separate production company, and if it's an older show someone else may have the rights to syndication. Which basically means the contracts for many programs, especially those "in the vault", are going to have to be renegotiated before a network can make them available for download, and some won't be available at all. It also means $2 downloads may not end up being the standard.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the guilds got involved, too. Actors, writers, and directors are due royalties from syndication and DVD compilations. Are they going to get a cut of that $2? Their contracts most likely specified terms for residuals from reruns, but what's their cut of an iTunes download? This will be addressed in every contract from today forward, but what about the ones in place now (and the ones from a decade ago?)

    On the bright side, what I've noticed on Apple's marketing is that they keep slipping in references to "video podcasts"-- which at the moment barely exist. This could mean iTunes could branch into a new distribution channel for indie programs, like how Netflix is having some success as the sole distributor of certain movies.) It could be both the "bush leagues" for aspiring shows, or the place where shows with a fan base but who can't get the numbers to stay on the air (like Futurama or Freaks and Geeks) could end up.

  • by niall2 (192734) on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:51PM (#13813472) Homepage
    what do you do to allow people to discover new programs? I think many popular shows start off in bad time slots and are either upgraded or dropped but are given a chanse. I know many shows I loved I stumbled on and would not do so at $2 a pop. Do execs offer some new shows for free until the catch on and then tack on the extra cost onto future episodes? As there is no garuntee of advertising time sales for the inital run of some new shows, which get some viewers out of the novelty, will we see less risks being taken with the 12th season of what sells today or would a show like Firefly be more popular as its profitability could be directly estimated (all the /. Nielson families please stand up)?
  • by LordZardoz (155141) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:21PM (#13813616)
    May they be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

    While I seriously doubt that we will ever completly be rid of TV with commercials, I do suspect that at some point, that the TV viewing audience will be limited to the following:

    1) Viewing Live Events
    2) Viewing low quality shows
    3) Those destitute enough to not afford to download favorite shows.

    If viewers can pay to download a TV show they want to see, and keep it as long as they want, it will lead to several consequences. The first is that as noted in the article, the downloaded version of the show may be available in a higher definition. The second is that since its not broadcast, you wont have to worry about the FCC censoring naughty words or naughty images. The third is that the shows will no longer be forced to allow commercial breaks, and can run longer or shorter as needed by the story of that episode.

    This in turn could create the possibility that the version of the show that gets broadcast will be the inferior version of the show. And if your a true fan of the show, why settle for the crappy version?

    On top of that, once yoru no longer beholden to the schedule of the broadcaster, why be limted to watching only what they want to show you? If your a hard core sci-fi fan, why waste time with sitcoms? You could just download shows like every episode Star Trek, Battle Star Galactica, X-Files, Babylon 5, Firefly, and whatever else you actually want to watch. I am sure that the content providers will have no objections to selling to you from their back catalog.

    When (not if) downloading a selected version of a TV show becomes viable choice, TV Advertisers will be largely screwed.

    Welcome to the Revolution!

    END COMMUNICATION
  • Oh, boo-f'ing-hoo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:28PM (#13813646) Homepage
    It is both disappointing and unsettling that ABC would embark on a new -- and competitive -- network program distribution partnership without the fundamental courtesy of consultation

    You mean like the rest of us got used to the idea of having our jobs outsourced to east Crapistan? I don't remember any consultation for that, do you guys?

    So what's stopping you from forming a local group and developing your own content? Maybe that idea would occur to you if you weren't so busy whining about the world moving on.

    This is what capitalism is all about. New technolgies arise and induce change. The market adapts and either business adapts or goes the way of RCA. You can either keep whining to the parent network, hoping they'll throw you a bone to get you to shut up. Or you can start understanding the new environment and content creation and get off your big, fat rolling in cash TV ass and learn to operate in the new reality.

  • by prockcore (543967) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:51PM (#13813726)
    Desperate Housewives commands $350,000 for a 30 second spot. There are 17 minutes of commercials in 1 episode, which means there are 34 commercials in each episode.

    That comes to $11.9 million per episode. That means 6 million people need to purchase each episode in order to match what ABC currently gets from advertisers.

    Somehow I think the people talking about the death of broadcast TV are a bit pre-mature.
    • And that $11.9 million is pure profit? None of it goes to pay for things like oh, say, salaries at local affiliates, broadcast hardware, electric bills, etc? An iTMS TV download costs Apple 200 MB of disk-space and the same amount of bandwidth per download. I think the margin on the download is a teeny bit higher.
    • That means 6 million people need to purchase each episode in order to match what ABC currently gets from advertisers.

      And Desperate Housewives averages 21.3 million viewers per episode. If a market can be created where even 1 out of 3 viewers downloads the episode instead of watching the advertising-laden version, they've made their money. If half the viewers downloaded instead of watching over the air, the business model is changed forever. Better than that. Offer a discount to people willing to commit
  • by Craig Maloney (1104) * on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:28PM (#13814151) Homepage
    For those of you who don't want to read the original text of the letter, we now present the abridged version below:

    Affiliates: Wah!

    This has been a special presentation. We now return you to your busy work schedule.

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents

Working...