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ABC Affiliates Grapple With TV-Show Downloads 480

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 @07:59PM (#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 [] 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.

  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <> on Monday October 17, 2005 @07:59PM (#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.)

  • New Business Model (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NotMyNickName ( 922171 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:02PM (#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 Jace of Fuse! ( 72042 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:04PM (#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.
  • Re:....oooooooooor (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jomas1 ( 696853 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:06PM (#13813235) Homepage
    " 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.
  • hah wtf! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:08PM (#13813249)
    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.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:11PM (#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.
  • 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 the possibilities... I can not wait :)
  • by MMHere ( 145618 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:16PM (#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.
  • PVR to Ipod (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dduardo ( 592868 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:17PM (#13813296)
    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.
  • Thank you Apple! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SectoidRandom ( 87023 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:18PM (#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.
  • Re:Choice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Douglas Simmons ( 628988 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:20PM (#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, Insightful)

    by D'Sphitz ( 699604 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:21PM (#13813316) Journal
    Yeah I know what you mean, why buy CD's or MP3's when we have radios...
  • by smallpaul ( 65919 ) <paul.prescod@net> on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:25PM (#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.

  • by fullon604 ( 895424 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:26PM (#13813341)
    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.
  • by crazdgamer ( 846581 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:30PM (#13813359) Journal
    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). This is a natural extension of that paranoia.
  • by Hamster Lover ( 558288 ) * on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:30PM (#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.
  • Re:PVR to Ipod (Score:5, Insightful)

    by andygrace ( 564210 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:34PM (#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.

  • Re:Choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:34PM (#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.

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:37PM (#13813392)
    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/per hour to the stations for my time. $1 per hour! At that rate I will gladly outbid the advertisers to reclaim my time. And unlike bittorrent and unrestricted PVR's, legal downloads probably won't have the law working against them. Be afraid, affiliates, be very afraid.

  • by sbjordal ( 654330 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:37PM (#13813393)
    Question: What is the point of Broadcast TV?
    Answer: To show quality shows that everyone can enjoy.



    An affiliate broadcast TV station has one goal: To create revenue for the stockholders. This is done through advertising. Lost/Cosby show/Nighstalker/Full house whatever the show is has one purpose: Attract viewers so they can watch more advertising.

    To think that consumers can get content from broadcast TV without commercials and advertising will for sure cause a stirr when the reason affiliates exist is to make money.
  • commercials (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:39PM (#13813409)
    But will the downloads have commercials? I won't pay to download commercials. Not when I can record the shows I like on my PC based DVR (Sage) and watch when I get around to them. And skip the commercials with one button.
  • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:46PM (#13813444) Homepage
    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 are not out of pocket. I have absolutely no illusions that a court would see things that way of course, which is why this is precisely the kind of service that I've been waiting for since iTMS first arrived. But you watch; you just *know* that the studio execs are going to try and keep the staggered global release schedule in place for some reason, despite the fact that digital distribution makes it completely redundant.
  • by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:48PM (#13813459)
    Cable costs 60 to 100 per month. Channels I'd like to watch out of 120 end up hovering at around 3.

    Where in the world are you buying your cable TV from? Or is this one of those classic Slashdot price exaggerations like "CD's cost $20" when they really cost $12 from any large retailer? (Even the grossly overpriced music stores in the mall charge $18 or so for a CD)

    I've never seen basic cable cost over $40 per month, and digital satellite companies have plans starting at $30 per month. I'm all for "sticking it to the man", but exaggerating prices at every opportunity doesn't make us sound like a reasonable group.

  • 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 ads for that time slot.

    What's happening here is that the affiliates are seeing the writing on the wall. Downloads of shows aren't going to make a dent for a while but they could. If a significant amount of the viewership starts watching their TV shows via Apple's downloads then that is that many less people watching it on the air and seeing ads. TV stations know this as do the advertisers. Advertisers will not be willing to pay as much for those ad slots because there's less on-air viewership for that show at that time on that station.

    The networks are going to make money either way as they are playing both ends against the middle. They make money from the affiliate licenses as well as from downloads from Apple. TV stations are just going to have to cope. This isn't going to go away. They'll have to find another way to keep their local viewership up.

  • by niall2 ( 192734 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:51PM (#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)?
  • Re:Choice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SangoDaze ( 78611 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:53PM (#13813481)
    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.
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @08:55PM (#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 SEGT ( 880610 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:02PM (#13813528)
    You will still see commercials, only they will be embedded into the content. Advertisers do that already with product placement but I can imagine it will be pushed to the extreme once they realize everyone has cut the 30 second ads. Think of The Truman Show where the wife will hold up a product and talk about how great it is.
  • by TBone ( 5692 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:11PM (#13813562) Homepage'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.

  • Re:hah wtf! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zakezuke ( 229119 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:19PM (#13813603)
    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 would be more fair and reasonable is if ABC would license content for sale by the local affiliates. This seems the best way to not muck with an existing business model that works yet incorperate new technology into the mix.

    They may be blood sucking parasites, but they are blood sucking parasites who have entered into prior agreements in good faith.
  • by markedmann ( 912673 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:19PM (#13813604)
    Yes... and how often do you watch a show? Once, maybe twice? Now, looking at my "Most Frequent Listens" playlist in iTunes, most songs get listened to about 30 times that much over the span of a few months. Overpriced? Not exactly.

    I've never understood this... how can you call yourself a music fan if you're not willing to support the artist that you're listening to? I bought a piece of vinyl (Wolf Parade) and a cd (Metric) this weekend, coming to a total of $40. I will continue to do this for as long as possible, because I have respect for the artists that put so much into their work... In this day and age, a good record is about the best value you can find.
  • by LordZardoz ( 155141 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:21PM (#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!

  • Re:iTorrent? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tm2b ( 42473 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:25PM (#13813632) Journal
    I can think of one big down side... I can see it now:
    Apple []: Stealing your bandwidth for their profit?
    Posted by Zonk [] 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.
  • Oh, boo-f'ing-hoo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:28PM (#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.

  • ooooor Usenet (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:31PM (#13813656)
    And then there is the completely ignored realm of Usenet. Newsgroups carry most popular (or cult popularity) shows. Really popular shows like Lost are usually ripped from HDTV sources and encoded to DIVX or XVID at a high bit rate (say 700MB for a 40 minute show).
    Now content is dependant on your ISP's retention, but downloads are usually extremely fast. Alternately you can use a pay Usenet service like EasyNews [] or Giganews [] which have crazy retention periods.
    How do you know what's up there and which group to access to find it? The handy dandy site newzBin [] is a searchable index of binary files available on Usenet.
    I have Tivo and use it for a lot of stuff, but I started just grabbing HDTV rips of Battlestar Galactica off Usenet because the quality was so good.
  • Undercut (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Atario ( 673917 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:36PM (#13813671) Homepage
    The issue is whether the network is going to undercut its affiliates by building an alternate distribution model.
    I wish someone would.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:37PM (#13813678)
    Yay! If this works, then not only can Apple offer higher quality and no commercials, but they're not limited to any particular format. For decades only two media formats have really been used:
    - movie (usually 1.5-2.5 hours, but sometimes shorter or longer; one-time event, possibly followed by sequels after a couple years)
    - TV show (30 or 60 minutes, minus commercials; weekly, with a yearly break to cut it up into "seasons")

    HBO (among others) has had success doing a "mini-series", which is basically "an hour or two now and then, for some number of weeks". And countless film directors have tried to get around this by making a 2.5 hour movie, then releasing the "director's cut" (a 3-4 hour super-movie) when the DVD is released.

    But if downloading becomes a primary way to get media, we're no longer limited to any particular format. If you want to make a 8-hour movie, go for it. If you want to split it up at natural breaks, instead of forcing every section to be exactly the same length, that's fine. If your shots don't lend to commercial breaks every /x/ minutes, that's fine, too. Content producers, rejoice! Finally, freedom from being squeezed into those little squares you see in the TV schedule!

    Also, the pool of content *producers* is no longer limited. It takes a lot of money to put something on broadcast TV. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry with a $1000 DV camera and Final Cut Pro can make a movie, and now he can distribute it. That is, assuming they eventually let independent artists use the new system, too, but (judging from the iTMS) I can't see why they wouldn't.

    Apple brought desktop publishing to the masses in the 80's with Macintosh + Laserwriter. They brought music to the masses with iTunes + iTunes Music Store + GarageBand. I can see this, in a couple years, doing the same for video.

    And if the local ABC station goes out of business, well, I'm not going to lose any sleep over that -- just as I wouldn't cry if the local paper went out of business because some guy bought a Laserwriter. If you don't produce something people want better than the other guys, you go out of business. Welcome to the free market.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:40PM (#13813687)
    It's so nice to finally see this happening, I mean I download TV (simpsons, family guy, CSI, etc). Millions of people are doing the same, it really will be interesting to see how long it takes hollywood to figure out that they don't need to print nearly so many DVDs, warehouse and ship them etc...

    Consumers are ready, there are more and more video capable players kicking around, and if enough big players follow suite, I can see the day when you'll be able to watch a simpsons on TV, and order it right away on your cell-phone (for $2 :D and have it zipped over to your PC, which is connected to your plasma TV... ooo the future looks fun!

    Perhaps we could even see shows that could download in advance, and "unlock" once they actually air, or offer real fans of the show the option to see the show a half hour early online... Wow, the marketing possibilities are making my head spin...


    Now, if we can only convince Sony to follow suite, and open up their entertainment properties to legal downloading, perhaps they could help stem the tide of red ink... and Microsoft and Intel will DRM everything, but hey, none of that matters, because we'll finally be able to legally bring our favorite shows with us...

    I wonder if they will still have commercials....
  • Re:Choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Decameron81 ( 628548 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:48PM (#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 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:55PM (#13813743) Homepage
    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 into any "exclusive online distribution agreements" with major labels (that I know of). As far as I see it, the only anti-competitive behavior apple's shown is their proprietary encrypted-AAC fileformat.
  • Re:Prices (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @09:55PM (#13813745) Homepage
    "incredibly disproportionate" in what regard? Is the music too expensive or is the show?!

    Music is generally pretty cheap to make. Nowadays you don't need expensive studios or musicians, nearly everything is done with pro-track. And let's face it; the artists rarely ever get paid unless they can stretch a career out for several years. That's why I think a dollar is too much. I'd probably pay 10 cents a song if it was in a lossless format.

    However, TVs shows have executive producers, producers, directors, gaffers, camera people, HIGHLY paid actors, writers, etc. All who are unionized and all who get paid a damn lot. Hit shows are incredibly expensive to make. Even a successful shows like Friends never made a profit in primetime, NBC will make its profit in reruns and DVD sales. Considering all that I consider two bucks a barging, but not at the ridiculously low resolution Apple is selling them for.
  • by PollGuy ( 707987 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:00PM (#13813762)
    The complaint didn't come from an ABC competitor, it came from an ABC affiliate. As in, one of the local stations that takes a part of the pie generated by the public's eyeballs. What ABC has done is completely circumvented its own affiliates without even so much as a heads up, which is quite a rude thing to do to your distribution channel. If iTunes TV distribution takes viewers away from the affiliates, Apple will win at their expense.

    This is a far more subtle relationship than your "business models change, you have to adapt or die" dismissal warrants.
  • by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @10:06PM (#13813785) Homepage
    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?)
  • Re:Choice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) on Monday October 17, 2005 @11:11PM (#13814090)
    Hey, I'd rather risk Apple becoming a monopoly in the future than help sustain Microsoft's one today!
  • by pintomp3 ( 882811 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @12:38AM (#13814477)
    and that's assuming ABC gets all of that $1.99.
  • Re:Choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheVoice900 ( 467327 ) <kamil@kamilkisie ... inus threevowels> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @01:23AM (#13814663)
    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:3, Insightful)

    by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @01:43AM (#13814720) Homepage
    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,man... ABC is owned by Disney. Disney has a reckoning coming with Pixar, who has single-handedly saved their animation ass, and they need to renegotiate the contracts. Pixar is owned by Jobs. The last boss at Disney decided to play hardball with Jobs, and now that guy's gone. New guy won't make the same mistake.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @01:50AM (#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:5, Insightful)

    by aussie_a ( 778472 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @03:30AM (#13815059) Journal
    You mean, paying for something that I can receive for free with a TV and an antenna?

    You mean you get commercial free television with your antenna, for free? And you're able to call up whatever television you want JUST with your antenna? Wow. That's incredible.

    Give me something I can't already get for free

    A commercial free program that is yours forever. That's something you can't get for free (unless you use a video or CD, which can be lost or destroyed).

    Slashdotters have often complained about there not being a commercial alternative to illegally downloading television shows. Slashdotters often said that they would happily pay a few bucks to download episodes legally. Now there finally is a legal alternative, and people are complaining about it just being a replica of what's provided for free on tv. Typical.
  • Re:Choice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ZackSchil ( 560462 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @03:42AM (#13815076)
    I'm confused. Did you expect anything to be able to import that CD? Did you think for a moment: "Hey, I just turned on the 'Try super hard to read scratched discs' option, maybe it's going to actually try to import the disc! I mean, come on. As for the rest of your complaints, I'm pretty sure iTunes can do all of those things with the proper codecs downloaded (there's a quicktime OGG codec, etc). There are plenty of reasons to dislike iTunes but you didn't name any of them.
  • by Anonymous Writer ( 746272 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:23AM (#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.

  • by jacksonj04 ( 800021 ) <> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:46AM (#13815472) Homepage
    Apple integrated it and made it easy to use. Ever tried syncing using Windows Media Player? I would rather copy every one of my 3754 tracks over manually, including creating the folder structure.

    iTunes and iPod is easy. That's why it's winning.
  • by nanoakron ( 234907 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @06:49AM (#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.

  • by mr100percent ( 57156 ) * on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @06:54AM (#13815679) Homepage Journal
    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 Darby ( 84953 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @11:42AM (#13817684)
    From the article: ABC affiliates are concerned that they weren't given an opportunity for financial participation in a new form of distributing shows that derives value through the promotion and broadcasting of affiliates (emphasis mine).

    Look, if you choose to go into business with an entirely slimy, underhanded, and utterly vile business like a major media conglomerate (*any* major media conglomerate) then when you get fucked you whine like a little bitch, then you are being a crybaby.
    You (not you you, the same you as above) are also demonstrating your own idiocy, lack of foresight, and hypocricy.

    These affiliates have chosen to do business with companies who are actively working to dumb down the population and turn them into nothing but drooling consumers.

    Now, it certainly isn't a positive thing that this only has the potential to hurt the affiliates and not the main corporation, but to complain that since you are in the business of fucking people that it's bad that you get fucked is nothing but idiotic whining.

  • by gwhenning ( 693443 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @03:28PM (#13819795)
    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 wouldn't even mind if they downsampled the video to native TV resolution if that helped the MPAA not have seizures that you can put a dvd on the ipod.
    And yes, I know that I can use OSS tools and spend a little time converting all my video files to Mpeg4 or h.264 but for the masses a one click solution from Apple would work best.

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27