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Media (Apple) Media Television

Can iTunes Resurrect Old Time TV? 214

An anonymous reader writes "With iTunes selling a couple of popular TV shows now there has been significant hesitation from other television producers to follow suit and put their content on the Web. It has also sparked activity from the actors unions who want additional compensation for what appears online. But there is also existing content that stands to be revived in this new context, older television shows from the 50's and 60's that have been squeezed out of the traditional broadcast by popular shows of more recent vintage. It was suggested to a producer who is presently digitizing 27 episodes of a 1950's show called Captain Zero to offer it up on iTunes for a buck an episode. Is this an opportunity for these old shows to strike while the iron is hot and while the owners of more contemporary content are caught like deers in a headlight? As the Captain Zero article points out purveyors of old time radio programs have enjoyed a significant revival by embracing web-based technology. Why not old time TV?"
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Can iTunes Resurrect Old Time TV?

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  • Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @04:46PM (#13905990) Journal
    Programmers are not compensated for every copy of their software they develop for their employers. Actors are no different.

    Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson got paid an average engineer salary to develop unix, yet only Bell Labs and now the open group make money off of every copy sold. They agreed to work for x amount a year.

  • Re:ipod... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SYFer ( 617415 ) <syfer@syf[ ]net ['er.' in gap]> on Saturday October 29, 2005 @04:49PM (#13906008) Homepage
    Could not agree more with the premise. In a world where content is king, it continually amazes me that the vast piles of old TV programming out there can't find a market. Online delivery at low prices strikes me as the perfect delivery channel.

    I assume the overhead is low and, in an era where new, expensive HD content is raising the bandwidth bar, these old 4:3 shows would be light on the pipes and relatively easy and cheap to deliver.

    I for one would happily pay to see old episodes of shows like The Saint or The Prisoner without having to pay for a whole additional tier of cable TV service just so I can get channels like BBC America (and then hope they run the shows).

    Listening to Podcasts like "Soap Detectives" [soapdetectives.com] has gotten me into listening to old radio shows lately and I'm amazed by how entertaining they are.

    On demand, online delivery of old TV content sounds like a sure winner to me.
  • Bandwidth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bones3D_mac ( 324952 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @04:53PM (#13906029)
    The interesting thing with doing this, is that the amount of bandwidth needed for these older shows is far lower than that of the modern programs, such as Lost. Many of these older television shows only need to be encoded in greyscale and given a mono soundtrack. This could be a great, yet, inexpensive way to give the itunes video store some credibility.
  • Re:What I want: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:01PM (#13906072) Homepage
    May I play devil's advocate? Think about the majority of the TV watching public. Many don't care about the things you mentioned.
    If you want me to be a customer, you need to offer me several things:
    That's great, and good points, but if 240 million boobs in the the US don't care, and 10 million educated people like who who understand the issues with DRM do care, I think the 240 million will rule the market.
    Sort of like, If WalMart wants me as a customer they need to offer X Y and Z... WalMart doesn't give a shit what I want- they have their customers....
    So If you want me to be a customer, you need to offer me several things:, they will tell you to shove it up your ass, and don't watch TV, and sell it the 100s of millions of people... It sucks, but it is capitalism at its finest....
  • by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:07PM (#13906100) Homepage
    However, even at bargain bin prices, it's not worth it. $5+ for a movie that's 20, 30, 40, 50 or even 60+ years old is not worth it.
    Actually, that is so on topic that it isn't even funny- That is why the online distro is such a good idea. You aren't paying 5$ for the movie. You are paying 50 cents for the movie, and then You are paying for the freight to get it to the store, to heat the store, pay the staff, buy shopping carts, advertise, press the DVD, the DVD case, the shrink wrap and on and on etc etc etc.... With the online distro, you cut out so much of that expense....
  • by kannibal_klown ( 531544 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:09PM (#13906106)
    Yes, but not everything.

    There's a lot out there I'd pay good money to get on DVD, like Get Smart. Unfortunately they won't make DVDs of that series (though 1 or 2 Get Smart movies are printed and some series bootlegs exist).

    I wish that just about everything was available on non-VHS media. Even some shows SciFi series from around 1999 or 2000 are being held back.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:09PM (#13906107)
    $5+ is not worth it for most of the movies that are 1, 2, 5, 10 years old. There are many old movies that are: Fellini, Antonioini, Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Welles, Godard, and so on. In fact, there are undoubtedly more movies over 20 years old that are worth buying than there are ones less than 20 years old.
  • Re:What I want: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:13PM (#13906118) Homepage Journal
    Meh, drop the elitist attitude. Some people just don't care about the DRM. Don't call me dumb, don't call me a slave. I saw what was out there, and I decided to go with iTunes. Just because you don't like it does not make my choice any less valid. People on this site can't seem to realize that perfectly intelligent people have opinions and priorities that differ from theirs and then proceed to call anyone whose opinion differ from there "the unwashed masses".
  • by Jameth ( 664111 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:13PM (#13906121)
    They need to realize that, with those old shows, they have a very different market. The amount of people who desperately want their old shows to the point that they'll pay what they would for a recent one is very low, while the amount of people who will say, "Hey that was a kinda cool show. I'd like to have a copy of that for a couple of cents," is very high. And, since the entire show has already had its run and made its money, selling them at $0.25 or $0.50 a show instead of $1 per episode is still making a profit.

    Naturally, I'd consider paying a half-dollar an episode for one of the good slightly old shows, like The Prisoner or The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • Re:Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CrankyFool ( 680025 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:39PM (#13906209)
    It's a free market. If a programmer can negotiate some sort of royalty/residuals deal, I'm sure we'd applaud her (especially if the software's good). That programmers don't get terms that are as favorable is about as relevant to actors as it should be to us that your average hourly janitor doesn't get health benefits -- it's unfortunate, maybe, but shouldn't mean we should give up our own benefits.

    Plus, in the end, actors' names do have an obvious impact on the financial success of movies (please, lets assume that a horde of geeks have responded to this and said "I don't care who's in a movie as long as it's good" or "I boycott mass-market movies" and move on). Who knows the programmers responsible for a title? Are their names on the box? Does their name recognition add any actual financial value to the producers?
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <.moc.cam. .ta. .rcj.> on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:42PM (#13906219) Journal
    Just like with the music store, the big money is in the back-catalog sales. There are hundreds of thousands of TV shows from the 20th century, and only a few of them live on in syndication the way that the Andy Griffith Show or I Love Lucy have. There's only so much room in broadcast and even satellite TV schedules, so most of those old shows just sit on a shelf, making no money at all for their owners.

    I know there are hundreds of episodes of old cartoons I'd love to get, for a start.


  • Re:What I want: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dan Up Baby ( 878587 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:52PM (#13906261) Homepage
    I hate to break it to you, but not every person "interested in tech" expects to be able to buy things completely without DRM. I, for one, couldn't care less--so long as the license is no more restrictive than the typical iTunes one, or something similar, it's fine with me. I don't expect to be able to burn things designed for an iPod onto DVD--I'll just buy the DVD if that's what I want.

    Oh, and I doubt the obesity rate is higher at Wal-Mart than it is on Slashdot. Let's be honest, here.
  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @06:05PM (#13906308)
    This should have been a non-issue. If copyright laws were still in compliance with the US constitution, these old shows would have entered the public domain years ago.
  • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rollingcalf ( 605357 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @06:23PM (#13906383)
    "I'm still not sure whether the points system makes movies better, like tipping makes service in resturants better, or if it just means that most actors starve."

    Tipping doesn't make service better. Go visit a restaurant in a country where tipping isn't done (i.e. most countries outside the US) and you'll see.

    Tips are expected by the staff merely for showing up, so they're not a motivation for better service. Tipping is only insurance against getting deliberately bad service the next time you visit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 29, 2005 @06:54PM (#13906520)
    > However, even at bargain bin prices, it's not worth it. $5+ for a movie that's 20, 30, 40, 50 or even 60+ years old is not worth it.

    Woow. That's an impressive statement.

    25+ years old: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079944/ [imdb.com]
    30+ years old: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0068646/ [imdb.com]
    40+ years old: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0059578/ [imdb.com]
    50 years old http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0038650/ [imdb.com]
    60+ years old http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0022100/ [imdb.com]

    Saying that any of those movies are not worth 5$ bucks just shows the world what a moron you are.


  • by Blondie-Wan ( 559212 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @07:15PM (#13906603) Homepage
    $5+ for a movie that's 20, 30, 40, 50 or even 60+ years old is not worth it.

    I'll charitably assume you're speaking from the POV held by many here that copyrights ought to not last as long as they do, and this stuff should enter the public domain and be freely downloadable by this age, rather than the incredibly moronic POV that movies that old aren't worth watching.

    I think if I were to put together a list of my all-time favorite movies, the overwhelming majority of them would be more than 20 years old, and I'm sure the same would be true of any credible list of all-time greatest movies.

  • by MoNickels ( 1700 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @07:33PM (#13906665) Homepage
    Sure, there's been a great resurgence of old-time radio. I love the stuff and I have a bunch of it. But let's be fair here: most of it is bootlegged. The original creators are not the ones posting it online, streaming it online, selling it online. It's other people either giving it away or making money only for themselves, with no licensing fees at all being paid to or by anyone. The original creators or performers aren't seeing a dime. So to paint that as the ideal model for old-time television isn't quite right, although it's a great example of what *will* happen if the TV people don't starting putting up a lot of content, and quick, on services like iTunes. The bootleg market for online OTTV (to coin an acronym for old-time television) will soon be so huge there will be no room for legitimate producers--just like happened with today's television, too.
  • by Scudsucker ( 17617 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @11:23PM (#13907352) Homepage Journal
    They don't care because they are in business to make money, not to meet every billeted list of everyone in the "me" generation. Several items on your unreasonable list are direct impediments to making money, such as having files without DRM, or making them playable on anything other than Mac's, iPods or PC's.

    And as far as viewing the files goes, if you have a computer capable of running iTunes, you have a computer capable of playing these videos.
  • by jizmonkey ( 594430 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @11:51PM (#13907423)
    Some of those old Looney Tunes episodes are extremely racist. The censoring's not just to protect kids: it's to remove offensive material.

    Boy, howdie, you said it. Huckleberry Finn, the Revised Expurgated Edition is so much better than the original. And Harriet Bowdler did such a fantastic job of cleaning up Shakespeare. I also limit my movie-viewing to trans-continental airline flights, because they boil down the movie to the good parts and I don't have to watch the "director's vision" filth.

    I'm sorry I don't have more time to reminisce with you, but early tomorrow I'm heading off to Alabama and Mississippi to help clean out the government archives. There's a lot of junk from the 1950s and 1960s that makes them look bad, and it's all water under the bridge now, so hey. We're trying to project a more modern image now.

  • by adamgeek ( 771380 ) on Sunday October 30, 2005 @01:47AM (#13907729) Homepage
    honestly, the lack of resolution is one of the few things that i think will coax the [entertainment] industry into licensing it's content. i'm a filmmaker, and we are currently negotiating a distribution deal for our latest film. we were approached by a large company (as recognizable as, say, "disney") and one of this company's pitches was an online distribution model (video ringtones, ipod style downloads, etc). my business partner had a lot of hesitance about selling our film online in an ipod-style format at such a large discount, especially when it might be easily pirated. then i told him it was 320x240 .. which was mostly greeted by silence on the other end of the line. then i explained that 320x240 is "webcam" quality, and he was all for the idea. zero real cost to us, lots of potential profit. when you look at the fact that the final retailer (i.e. Best Buy, etc) actually gets the largest slice of the sale price, there isn't actually that much difference in my profitshare of a $2 download online, and a $19.99 DVD, assuming the online download has fewer "middle-men" taking percentage points. and, with the online download being "inferior" to our DVD product, it won't hurt DVD sales with buyers that actually care about content.. hell, some buyers may buy both (look at guys like George Lucas.. the friggin' master of getting nerds to buy the same 3 movies several times over in different 'box set' form).

    so, if you WANT to actually see good content available at a reasonable price online.. don't push for VGA+ resolution so quickly haha. let the mainstream content start appearing, and then let the indie producers eventually start offering a VGA+ resolution option, and ultimately the mainstream content will follow suit. expecting mainstream studios to immediately offer up DVD quality downloads of their movies at a reasonable price without some VERY strict piracy safegaurds in place.. is unreasonable, imo. no way the bean-counters will do it, heh.

    my $.02*

    *disclaimer: i didn't proof read.. i hope this was semi-coherent.
  • IPTV (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cybpunks3 ( 612218 ) on Sunday October 30, 2005 @04:52AM (#13908142)
    I think ultimately what we need for IPTV is for the internet to become everyone's video collection, everyone's DVR timeshifter. The technology is ripe for that.

    There are many shows that are so voluminous that the only practical way to consume them is with an all-in-one jukebox with a beefy search engine behind it (think google video indexing closed captioning).

    Think of these long-running shows:

    The Simpsons
    Married with Children
    Doctor Who

    Imagine also being able to dig into old news shows, like every episode of 60 Minutes, 20/20, or Nightline.

    Imagine being able to watch any old airing of the Tonight Show back to the earliest B&W days based on a search for a celebrity guest. For instance, you could line up all of Tom Hanks' appearances and watch his fro shrink and his hairline recede.

    DVD is fine, but it is just not practical to reserve the shelfspace to own it all. And DVDs do little to help you get from "gee, I wish I could see the episode where Ricardo Montalban guested on Gunsmoke" to it actually playing on the screen. You have to go figure out the episode number online, then find the right disc, pop it in, wait through the ads, navigate through the menus, and go. The convenience at the macro level is not there, just as maintaining a large audio CD collection is a drag.

    So much of our content viewing habits these days is a result of search results. That's the whole idea of web surfing. So the ideal video viewing experience, to me, is to sit down casually and just improvise search terms until you come up with interesting enough results. You won't know what you want to watch until you see what comes up. Or you have the preference engine (ala Amazon) do it for you.

    Instead of using the web to index information about media, it could index the media directly and let you jump right into it.

    For instance, let's say you typed in a particular line or phrase like "Do'h" and every instance where Homer says "Do'h" pops up with the timecode right in there. You might even be able to set up in/out playlists for custom highlights reels.

    Really, this stuff is all doable technically. Google video is a good proof of concept. It's purely a matter of working out the DRM and the business side of things.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 30, 2005 @06:26AM (#13908300)
    Censoring 'racist' behaviour from the past is almost as bad as being racist in my opinion (and I'm black so I can say something about this). If you censor racist material and attitudes from old shows, you are effectively denying the past and the autrocities that happened. It would be like denying the holocaust happened - an insult to everyone who had to endure it.
    I want to see the racism, the bigotry and plain stupidity of the past - people need to see it and understand why it was wrong, and not just sweep it under a rug somewhere.
    It needs to be brought out into the open, discussed and accepted that "yes people did act like that" and we need to see why it was wrong and how much of an asshole thing it was to do.

    Granted, I think what there needs to be is a disclaimer stating the fact that the show contains bigoted material and attitudes and maybe rate it Mature. (I'd rate it lower but I doubt most children or even teens would have the opportunity to discuss the attitudes in the movies with an adult or other person with enough moral and ethical character to see how wrong it was)

    I dont know if this AC's comment will reach the light of day, but hopefully a couple people will read it. That will be enough.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead