Tradeoffs in Video Downloads

There's a lot of news today about CBS and NBC selling video content via Comcast. Several media outlets have compared Comcast's $1 fee to the $2 price at iTunes, but practically no one has mentioned that you actually get to keep the videos you download from iTunes.

As far as I can tell, the Comcast content is just like buying another attempt to watch. It doesn't seem that you can pause it or re-watch it. The Comcast service is also different in that you have a time limit in which you can re-watch the shows: 1 week. You might as well just use Tivo.

In fact, the only real suggested advantage is that the Comcast service allows you to watch the program on a TV. But guess what? You can already do by connecting the iPod to the TV. If you're worried about running out of battery during a marathon session, plug the thing in.

I'm also not sure everyone understands that you don't actually need a video iPod to download and watch videos from iTunes.
Design Element
Tradeoffs in Video Downloads
Posted Nov 8, 2005 — 9 comments below


Chris Jackson — Nov 08, 05 520

I think that this is exciting. I once downloaded every episode of startrek enterprise just to be able to watch it any time I wanted. This brings hope that if I do miss an episode of say "Lost" I can just go and pay a minimum charge. I hope that they allow clients to download and keep their purchased content... - Chris Jackson

Craig Cottingham — Nov 08, 05 521

Um, Chris, you don't have to hope for downloading episodes of Lost... they're already available in the iTunes Music Store.

Paul D — Nov 09, 05 523

They're also available elsewhere for cheaper, and in much better quality, within a day or so after broadcast. That said, if iTunes was DVD resolution and had no DRM, I'd buy Lost every week.

Scott Stevenson — Nov 09, 05 524 Scotty the Leopard

They're also available elsewhere for cheaper, and in much better quality

Are you sure they're better quality? I haven't looked closely at the specs, but the stuff that Comcast sends down the pipe to my house isn't exactly what I'd call pristine -- artifacts are regularly visible. Nowhere near DVD quality.

John — Nov 09, 05 525

By "elsewhere" he probably means BitTorrent. I've downloaded a few episodes of Lost that the TiVo missed. What got was pristine HD-resolution video (in 16:9) and 5.1 Ac3 audio. The files sold through iTMS pale in comparison. (The HD files are much bigger, of course...)

Jussi — Nov 13, 05 539

It is interesting to see how the iTunes Media Store works for video content. When starting the *music* store the thing was to give consumers equal or better quality, depending on how it is measured, easier, faster and legally. Now with the video content the quality issue is totally different, the illegal sources give superior quality.

But as January brings us the *real* video iPod, maybe it will bring us better quality downloads (both video and audio AAC+ and revised bitrate)

Yes, the previous paragraph is purely wishful thinking :)

Scott Stevenson — Nov 13, 05 543 Scotty the Leopard

The difference is that high-quality 3 minute songs are a lot easier to deal with. High-quality 43 minute shows would take a long time to download and would take up a good percentage of the iPod.

Jussi — Nov 13, 05 544

Scott, I must disagree.

The standard illegal xvid/divx rip of an episode weighs about 350MB, this is probably not high quality but _much_ better than what itms provides, because of the resolution. Given use of h264 and an uncompressed original one could easily provide either better quality, smaller download or a combination of these compared to the illegal sources.

AFAIK, at the moment episodes downloaded from iTMS weigh around 200MB so the difference is really not be that big, just 50-75%[1], even less if that would be seen necessary.

[1] 300-350MB, 350MB being the current hobbyist standard, given better codec 300MB should be easy to achieve while having the same quality.

Scott Stevenson — Nov 14, 05 547 Scotty the Leopard

Jussi -- I have to admit, I hadn't run the numbers before. You present an interesting case, but I'm not totally sold yet.


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