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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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  • What I want: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @04:46PM (#13905993)

    If you want me to be a customer, you need to offer me several things:

    + I don't want to view it just on my ipod.

    + I don't want to be able to view it only with Quicktime.

    + I don't want to have severe DRM limits that hamper my ability to store and watch the content any time I want on any device I want.

    + I don't want to pay through the nose for the content.

    + If I watch it on a non-iPod device, I want higher quality downloads available.

    + You should have at least the selection that Netflix does. Even if you're just the "Netflix of television".

    I'm one of those consumers who is not opposed to paying for information/entertainment/data on any real basis other than I want it to be affordable and flexible. Don't place silly restrictions on me that hamper my enjoyment and don't charge me so much that I have to seriously think if each download is worth it.

    Also, isn't most of the content they're talking about already public domain? Hell, some of it can be downloaded from the Internet Archive already.
  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:02PM (#13906077)
    Have you seen the bargain DVD rack at your local Wal-Mart?

    No, I've never actually been inside of a Wal-Mart.

    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.
  • by The Mutant ( 167716 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:20PM (#13906141) Homepage
    I see a market for this, driven by the need of someone, somewhere, who wants to see an episode of some older TV show, or even a current TV show that doesn't have mass appeal. Appeal that's in the upper 20% of overall demand that is.

    iTunes is a very effective distribution medium, and has helped the careers of many a smaller label / band, and even moved significant amount of back catalog.

    Currently the networks are marketing to the top 20% in terms of demand, and ignoring the remaining 80% because they don't have the broadcast capacity.

    Teaming up with iTunes they do. Another example of The Long Tail [].

    I see this working.
  • Don't Care (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jerry Rivers ( 881171 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:22PM (#13906148)
    I don't care if it's Quicktime only. I don't care if I can't make a "backup" copy to give to my friends. I don't really even care about the quality all that much because the quality of 50's and 60's tv shows was generally pretty bad over the air anyway. As long as the price is right (under a dollar) and I can get a wide variety of old shows such as Ripcord, The Man From Uncle, Fireball XL5, or even old kids shows such as The Junior Forest Rangers or Razzle Dazzle, I will buy them. Package sets would also be nice.

  • Let me know when (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fahrvergnuugen ( 700293 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:35PM (#13906193) Homepage
    I can download all of the Wile E. Coyote episodes uncensored. It kills me that they see a need to hack the shit out of the classic looney tunes cartoons to protect kids from viewing violence. It was okay for a whole generation of children and adults alike and now suddenly it's not okay, so they need to censor them.
  • by slackmaster2000 ( 820067 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:40PM (#13906213)
    Yeah, but at $5 I'd say it is worth it when you factor in online distribution means you have to wait for the dang thing to download. Then if you're going to burn a DVD (if you're not blocked by DRM) you have to factor in the time and expense of that, *especially* if you have to transcode. Plus you don't get a nice case or get the durability/playability benefits of a pressed DVD.

    On the flipside, buying a DVD and getting it onto your iPod might prove pretty challenging, so the opposite might be true (that is, the benefits of online distribution specifically for iPod might be greater).

    It depends on what you're going to watch the show on, how much trouble you're willing to go through, and whether the packaging is worth something to you.

    For me, I prefer watching movies on DVD and on my TV. Seeing as how I can rent a movie for a few bucks or buy a movie second hand for a few bucks more, I'd never want to go through the hassle of downloading and burning. Been there, done that, *hated* it.

    Off topic: I don't buy anything from Walmart unless there is no alternative (rare).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 29, 2005 @05:41PM (#13906217)
    The big problem is getting the rights from the copyright holder (and finding the copyright holder!). These old shows were made in a time when broadcast on TV was the only distribution option, and the only thing covered in the contract. To sell by another method you need to get the rights & make a new contract, otherwise you're opening yourself up to a big fat lawsuit.

    Even today, to release recent (1970s) TV shows on DVD, the hardest part is getting the rights to the music used in the TV show.

    Since everyone in the entertainment business is aware of the fiction of "net profits" they want to have a share of the gross.
  • Re:M*A*S*H (Score:4, Interesting)

    by henni16 ( 586412 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @06:20PM (#13906369)
    if I could buy the whole seriese sands canned laugh.
    Having the seasons 1-8 (9 will be released in Dec, IIRC) on DVD behind me on the shelf:
    you can have that right now.
    I don't know about the RC1 release, but for the RC2s (1 or 2 seasons of mine are the German DVDs, most are from the UK) I can assure you that they all contain a "laughless" audio track.

    Each RC2- season box contains 3 discs with 8 episodes each (sadly, no bonus materials) and sell (at amazon) around 25 pounds(UK) or 20-27 Euro (German, also cotaining laughterless English track).
    Judging from the comments at (20$ a season) you can turn off the laughter on the RC1s too; at least on the early ones (I checked season 1,2 and 7; BUT 7 didn't list two english tracks so you might want to take a closer look).

    So you can get them already for 0.85$-2$ per episode,.
  • by laffer1 ( 701823 ) <luke@foolishgame[ ]om ['s.c' in gap]> on Saturday October 29, 2005 @06:44PM (#13906484) Homepage Journal
    And you lose more quality than the DVD. Why? Apple uses an incredibly small resolution for ipod videos.. 320 x 240 or so (from memory). My first computer did 640 x 480 for christ sake. I bought a music video on iTunes adn when i went full screen on my iBook it looked worse than the quicktime file i made from an old vhs of u2 videos. Apple needs to offer a high quality version at higher resolution. I'd even be willing to pay more for it.
  • Re:Bandwidth (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @07:28PM (#13906646) Homepage Journal
    " 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."

    Hmm... I have a concern about that. Those old B&W shows were also noisy. Noise is the worst thing to encode. (not just video noise, but depending on the period they used film etc...) They may actually have a hard time encoding those shows at a lower data rate because of the added artifacts that the technology of that era added to the video.

    My first thought when you mentioned monochrome encoding was that they'd shave off 2/3rds of the video data right away. But now that I think about it, I'm not so sure. As I understand it, MPEG'ish encoding starts with the green channel and tries to retain as much of the data it can for it since that's where most of the luminance of the data occurs. Red is less important, so it often gets pixelated. Blue is destroyed the worst in the process. Since monochrome data is just luminance, the bulk of the data needed to generate the image is still there.

    That said, I've never tried to encode monochrome footage. I don't know that either of the codecs supported by the iPod have a special B&W mode that would encode it with significantly less data. If somebody knows more about this, I'd love to hear from them.
  • Re:What I want: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Saturday October 29, 2005 @07:35PM (#13906671) Homepage
    1. You can view it on your computer also. Or you can play it on your TV by hooking your iPod up to the TV.
    2. The only reason you have to is the DRM. Sorry. But you aren't going to get a store right now that has no DRM-- which leads us to...
    3. Apple can try to be fair about their DRM, but no media company, whether they be music, movie, or TV, is going to agree to online stores with no DRM. Not right now. Of course, it's arguable the DRM doesn't really protect the content from replication, but good luck convincing these companies of that. On the other hand, digital distribution allows for new avenues of competition with these large companies, so acceptance of reasonable DRM in the short-term may lead to new distribution models by companies that don't require such tight control. In other words, it might be worth it to put up with some DRM if it gets this stuff online.
    4. How about paying through the credit card?
    5. Higher quality doesn't really make much sense for what Apple's looking for. It's not just an issue of these movies being designed to play on the iPod, but there are bandwidth considerations, and the fact that many customers just won't want to wait 10 hours while the thing downloads (on a broadband connection). The truth is, the quality they provide is watchable. It's far from perfect, but it's generally good enough for catching up on an episode you've missed. I would bet, though, that they are working on long-term plans for higher quality downloads, should it become appropriate.
    6. Huh? This one, strangely, doesn't make much sense to me. They're just starting with video, and you're complaining that you won't use them until they have a big selection. Why? What does it benefit you to have a large selection if they still don't have what you want, and what does it hurt you for them to have a small collection if they have a show you want to see? Netflix needs a big catalogue, but that's because they run a subscription model. iTMS doesn't cost you a thing until you want something they're offering. I agree that it'd be nice if they had more shows, but that's only so there'd be a greater chance of having what I want. They could have the same number of shows, but better shows, and I'd be happier.
  • Re:Bandwidth (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iroll ( 717924 ) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @07:52PM (#13906718) Homepage
    Interesting but cryptic comment. Care to explain to us how a black and white TV with monochromatic phosphores could have display anything more than "grey colors"?

    I'm not saying this to troll; I wouldn't be surprised if you could teach me something.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 29, 2005 @09:19PM (#13906965)
    Looney Tunes. They're old, and I don't think they are regularly broadcast anywhere. Furthermore, they are short, so you can toss a bunch on your iPod due to smaller file sizes, and actually watch a big number of them before your battery runs out due to their short run time.
  • by womby ( 30405 ) on Sunday October 30, 2005 @01:43AM (#13907722)
    And you lose more quality than the DVD.

    Just because Apple are the only company selling RIAA music videos online currently, does not mean that 320x240 == download quality. Apple chose that size for their service, others can (and do) offer larger or smaller files

    I bought a music video on iTunes adn when i went full screen on my iBook it looked worse than the quicktime file i made from an old vhs of u2 videos.

    No it didn't, your U2 VHS original was interlaced, distorted, discoloured AND only 240 lines, there is no way it could look better than the video you bought from Apple.

Air is water with holes in it.