Time-Shifted Video for the Masses

By Jenny Levine |

So the much-anticipated announcement was even bigger than expected. A video iPod—but just as important is the announcement of new content for the iPod (it's amazing how Apple continues to build exclusive content to drive its hardware business). iTunes 6 will incorporate music videos, video podcasts. and even television episodes (2,000 videos on day one!), so you know movies aren't far behind.

Disney, ABC & Apple Announce Deal to Sell TV Shows Online; Hits to Include 'Desperate Housewives,' 'Lost' and 'That's So Raven'

"The companies will start this collaborative initiative with five shows, including two of the most popular series on broadcast television, ABC's 'Desperate Housewives' and 'Lost,' as well as the new ABC drama 'Night Stalker,' and the two most popular shows on Disney Channel, 'That's So Raven' and 'The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.' Current season episodes of the ABC series will be available for download from Apple's iTunes Music Store the day after they are broadcast, while the entire first season of 'Desperate Housewives' and 'Lost' will be available for download immediately.

Current season episodes of Disney Channel series will be available for download on an ongoing basis, with selected past episodes of 'That's So Raven' and 'The Suite Life of Zack and Cody' available beginning immediately. Customers can purchase and download current episodes or past season episodes with just one click and view them on their PCs or Macs, and Auto-Sync them onto the new iPod for viewing anywhere." [Quote.com]

What's the one thing that's missing from my digital lifestyle? An easy way to get video to go. Currently, I have to record a show on the one ReplayTV I have that I can view on my wireless network, then download the show to my computer or laptop. If I want to take it on my Archos Jukebox, I have to convert it to a different format. Bah. It's too difficult, so I've only done it as a proof of concept, although I have burned a few things to DVD.

If I'm going to be able to do all of this through iTunes more efficiently, for the first time, I'll have to seriously consider buying an iPod. The ability to grab a show before heading to the airport is very appealing. Most adults don't want to watch video on a screen that size, but kids don't mind. It's a moot point, though, as Apple wisely included a video out port. For example, how much would the kids love it if I could put their favorite shows on the iPod, hop in the car for a long trip, and plug it into the minivan's video system for their viewing pleasure?! Switch back and forth between music and video, and it's a traveler's dream.

Graph of discussion of podcasting online shows huge spike when introduced into iTunes

Last summer's tipping point for podcasting came when it was added to iTunes. Now watch the wave head for the shore for video. And at a cost of just $1.99 per show, they've probably found a viable price point for those who would rather just time- and space-shift the most popular shows, although ultimately this is where television is headed in general—micropayments for a la carte viewing.

All very interesting, but it worries me all the more when all of this is sold directly to the consumer and bypasses libraries. It's times like this I re-light a candle that Audible will wake up from its coma and bridge the Digital Rights Management (DRM) gap between libraries and iPods. Right now, I believe OverDrive is the only company that lets libraries circulate copyright-protected videos, but of course Overdrive's Windows-Media-encrypted files don't work on iPods.

I've also been experimenting with MobiTV on my Treo 650. I would continue the subscription in a heartbeat if it wasn't $9.99 per month. It's the wrong price point for me, at least right now given the channels they offer. Plus, you can't fast-forward, which is a huge disadvantage. Taken together, though, all of this illustrates that video is a changin'!