How movie downloads should work

Over the last year, I’ve definitely bought into the Apple product offerings hook, line, and sinker. The ipod dragged me in. Then I purchased an ibook, next an imac for the home, and now I’ve just upgraded to a macbook. I hate DRM, but for right now the Apple itunes DRM in permissive enough that it doesn’t stop me from doing anything that I would want to do. With the release of movies and tv shows on itunes there’s a whole host of new opportunities and problems.

The imac that I use at home to manage all of our digital content has 100Gb of disk. My wife and I sync our ipods against this with a collection of about 30Gb of music. There is already some concern in the back of my mind about what would happen if the disk in the imac died a sudden horrible death as disk drives have a tendency to do. To counter this threat, I have another server that I regularly back up to in the garage. Of course this solution doesn’t cover a house fire or other catastropy and is already more involved than the average computer user is going to get.

The problem is magnified even more with movies. Looking at itunes it appears that the average movie size is 1.5-2Gb. This would mean that I could buy ~40 movies. Beyond this point I’ve got to start looking into better ways to store the files, ie. home terabyte file server. The main issue being that since I’ve purchased the file I can’t really delete it. Deleting or losing the file is the same as throwing $12.99 away. It appears that itunes allows you to burn the files to disk to back them up. So, you could pay $12.99 for the movie, plus the amount for a blank dvd, plus the time it takes to burn each movie. Or, you could just buy the dvd off of amazon and stick it in the dvd player. Itunes isn’t really winning the argument here especially since it takes 2+ hours to download in the first place.

The better option is to rent the movies. With movies you don’t watch them over and over again the way you listen to music anyway. My proposal is a partnership between Tivo and Netflix, I had heard rumors that they were talking. Tivo already handles DRM, making it difficult for you to take the files and upload them to the internet. Netflix has the library and the low monthly charge. What you would do is to manage your Netflix queue and then instead of mailing dvds, your Tivo would download 4 movies in the middle of the night. When you’re finished watching the movie you just delete it off the Tivo. Once you delete the movie the Tivo starts to download the next one. This would provide all of the benefits with little of the downside. Netflix‘s operations would be vastly simplified. Consumers don’t have to care about storing and backing up massive digital files. Tivo cements it’s role as the gateway to your tv. Everyone but Microsoft and Apple are happy.