Tuesday, January 24, 2006

iPod or DVD?

So, let me ask you something...

Do you think that the downloading of TV shows to iPods will affect the sales of TV-DVDs?

I say no, it won't affect it, and here's why...

The shows sold on the Apple iTunes store are about a quarter the size of DVD resolution. They're also not in widescreen, and they don't have Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. We're on the verge of Blu-ray and HD-DVD, yet the threat to TV-on-DVD is coming from these poor quality files? That doesn't make sense to me.

The price of the episodes doesn't offer much savings when compared to the DVD box set. Let's use Lost as an example. Apple is currently selling the complete first season for $34.99, while Amazon is selling the complete box set for $38.98. A few dollars more and you get tons of extras, widescreen transfer, and Dolby Digital 5.1. That's fine for Lost, but it's not good when you compare the price of Monk. The first season, just 13 episodes, sells for $25.87 on iTunes, or $44.99 on Amazon. Hmm...that's not very good. Apple is pricing their shows based on QUANTITY, while many studios price their products based on what they think they can get. The pricing strategies that some studios take with their products don't look good when compared to the iTunes model, so hopefully, though not likely, they'll consider adopting a pricing structure that reflects the content.

We also have to take into account that there are a LOT more DVD players out there than video iPods. Yes, Apple sold over 14,000,000 iPods in the previous quarter, but not all of those played video. Apple has said that they have sold over 8,000,000 VIDEOS on the iTunes store, not episodes. Disney has sold over 1,000,000 copies of Lost (I've heard over 1.2 million, but 1 million is easier to deal with). 1 million copies of Lost on DVD would translate into 25,000,000 episodes...with a single release.

Dave and I were talking about this through email, and he brought up a good point; lose your Hard Drive and you lose your episodes. I guess if you stored them on your HD and iPod then it would be unlikely both would go at the same time, but there are people out there that are buying these without putting them on iPods.

When you buy episodes for your iPod you're also missing out on the brag factor. Isn't it cool when your friends come over and see your wall of DVDs? They stand there and browse the spines, marvelling at your collection. You just don't get that with an iPod.

I'm not knocking the iTunes music store, I just don't think it offers much competition to TV-on-DVD. I think it's a great service when you miss an episode, but it won't replace a widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 version of a show on DVD, at least not for me.

Any comments?


At January 24, 2006 6:55 PM, Anonymous E.G. said...

I don't think the iTunes video sales will affect the sales of DVDs at all - at least not in the long term.

Up until iTunes started offering these shows, most of the downloading of episodes was done illegally, through file sharing programs and many have been shut down in recent months. So, I think the absence of these file-sharing programs evens things out.

The quality of these iTunes videos is horrible compared to that of DVDs; You said so yourself. Buying the episodes via iTunes is the modern equvilant of taping the episodes on VHS when they air. How many people tape the episodes and still buy the DVD set when it comes out? A lot.

There is also a major flaw in iTunes' service: beyond putting the show on an iPod, there is no other way of preserving it. The video can't even be saved to your computer in a universal format that can be burned to a disc at a later time. It has to be watched through iTunes or put onto an iPod. The videos are on average 200MB each, so as far as long term storage goes, people will run out of space eventually. iPods go as high as 60GB and the average computer holds 60GB, too, outside its space being used by the operating system and other programs.

And what do you think watching an hour-long video does to an iPod battery? The iPod I own will barely make it through 5 episodes on a single, FULL charge. The thing about iPods are, they are supposed to be for the person on-the-go, who can listen to their music or watch their favorite shows during waiting-period time, when they aren't at home (riding the subway, flying, doctors' office waiting, etc...) And iPod is never going to become an entertainment unit replacement because it's not designed to be one.

I think one of the main reasons why people download the episodes is because they have a chance to watch them if they miss them, or they want to refresh their memory of the last episode before the new one comes on. A very small percentage of the people that download them are doing it to keep them so they won't have to purchase the DVD.

The key here lies in DVD EXTRAS, which I think have a lot to do with DVD sales; if they didn't, TV Shows on DVD fans wouldn't get so ticked and make such a fuss when sets are released with little-to-no extras. Maybe one upside to iTunes' growing sales is the fact that it will make studios actually work harder to put out better quality sets for TV shows and NOT just put out sets with JUST the episodes, of TV shows that deserve better - cough - cough - Paramount's Charmed releases for example - cough cough.

The 3 things the DVD industry has to fight with, against iTunes sales (not that I think they necessarily have anything to worry about) are QUALITY, PERSERVANCE (that's not a word but it sums it up better than STORAGE) and EXTRAS.

At January 24, 2006 7:06 PM, Anonymous dave p said...

Although I’m a fan of the iTunes model, I don’t see it having any effect on my DVD buying in the foreseeable future. To date, I’ve purchased three hour-long episodes, each because I missed their broadcast airings but didn’t want to miss any plot developments in shows I am following. For me that’s all iTunes is at the moment, a safety net. Compare those three episodes to my regular DVD intake, which averages about 5 or 6 TV-on-DVD sets a month. You're right, the current quality and content of the download files can’t compare to what we get, even on a skimpy DVD box set. I do think there is long-term potential for electronic delivery of content, but it will be long time before it can present a challenge in either quality or quantity to DVD.

At January 24, 2006 7:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll never buy an iPod, so I'll continue to support TV on DVD.

At January 24, 2006 7:58 PM, Anonymous Alex Oatley said...

I think you're comparing apples and oranges. Downloadable videos will appeal to the same folks who would rather download music than have a whole collection of CDs. They aren't designed for DVD collectors. The same issues you bring up about iTunes videos--quality and price--are the issues CD collectors had when the iTunes Music Store first opened. Potentially the iTunes videos could cut into TV-DVD sales, but not significantly.

At January 24, 2006 8:33 PM, Blogger Gord Lacey said...

Alex, the article was supposed to be a response to the people that think iPod video sales will hurt TV-on-DVD. I didn't mean to start the comparison, just offer a rebuttal to it.


At January 24, 2006 10:46 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

I agree. I think it's a non-issue. Zero portability, low resolution, the fact that not everybody is in love with the iPod...

At January 24, 2006 10:49 PM, Anonymous Dave H said...

As an older viewer of TV on DVD I love the fact that I can watch them at home or on the road with a portable DVD player. For me, The I-Pod screen is much to small for viewing video's, So as long as quality season sets are available I will support TV on DVD

At January 25, 2006 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. I haven't downloaded any episodes from iTunes, but I'm so grateful that they're there in case I miss an episode. But I'm never going to buy them instead of DVDs. DVDs are higher quality, more versatile, and then there's the extras.

At January 25, 2006 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I jumped on the Lost bus 1/2 way through first season and then stopped watching because I didn't want to spoil the serial. I'm almost finished the first season, and now have to wait until season 2 comes out on DVD, because I've missed the first 1/2 of season two, and am caught in the same predicament as last year!

I find that when I watch TV shows on DVD, I miss realtime tv, causing my viewing to be dependant on the DVD release schedules. There's no WAY I'm going to spend $2+ per episode to catch up on top of the $55 for the DVD, plus spoil the DVD immersion experience by watching TV on my computer. I'm hoping that the ipod competition plus the bit-torrent ripping situation will encourage the studios to release the DVDs more quickly in response.

On the same note, the ridiculous from the hip rescheduling of network tv shows seems designed to drive me to buy DVDs. How can I set my VCR timer to tape Arrested Development or Scrubs when they're on for a half hour or an hour on Mondays, or sometimes Fridays or on hiatus for a few weeks or only a half season?

At January 25, 2006 7:27 PM, Anonymous Grant said...

I think HD dvd coming out will up the standards of what people will want to watch. I just got an HD tuner for my tv recently and I already find i'm viewing some shows because they look so great in HD. Even regular DVD is now not so great looking. I think so few people currently have any HD experience, and as they start seeing it at their friends houses, they will be really blown away, and they'll forget about wanting to watch shows on a 2" screen. Even on your computer's larger screen, iTunes video quality is really low. I can't wait until tvshowsonhdtv.com launches!

At January 25, 2006 10:41 PM, Anonymous Shaun said...

Well I have an Ipod Video, and I've downloaded episdoes of Knight Rider, from the music store. Now after watching the thing is I love the show, so its nice to have a couple episodes on there.

Although certain scenes being very dark, watching at such a small screen hurt my eyes, but I have to admit, its easier to carry around then a portable, just slide out your pocket on the subway and listen to that cool theme song.

At January 26, 2006 1:34 PM, Blogger DirkMaster said...

I don't own an iPod, and have no plans to get a Vidoe iPod. My vision is not good enough to see that tiny screen. But I don't understand why anyone would get either an iTune movie or a UMD movie. What a waste of money! I cannot conceive of what the attraction is. I must be too old, I guess.

At January 26, 2006 5:16 PM, Blogger The Thomas Montalto Blog said...

I love it when I miss a show because my TIVo didn't tape it for some reason, other then that, I think the feature is silly for your IPod and have no interest.

At January 27, 2006 4:17 PM, Blogger Steve K. said...

I am a huge Apple and Mac fan. However, what the iTunes Music store is delivering is crap! Low quality files with DRM. No thanks I'll skip both the audio and video. I do like the video iPod. I have a color iPod (no video). I still would rather buy DVDs and CDs and choose to put them on any device I like while still having full quality masters. They're mine. I paid for them. I'll do what I please with them. Leave me alone.

I see no threat for audio or video downloads from iTunes until you can get full quality audio and video. Until then, I'll pass.

At February 01, 2006 12:20 PM, Anonymous Bill Funt said...

When I was a kid we had a big, state of the art, color TV in the living room. We enjoyed watching shows together as a family at the end of a day and we enjoyed seeing them in their most presentable state.

My dad also had a woodshop and while he worked in it he often watched a much smaller, black and white, transistor style tv and I often tagged along and watched with him. We liked being able to watch on the go, and in a way the smaller screen and B&W picture was sometimes an interesting alternate angle.

They each served different purposes.

I like DVDs for the better sound and picture, the packaging, the durability and for being able to own libraries of shows.

I like iTunes for the convienience and instant gratification, the novelty, and in the case where I may only a want an episode or two, or in the case of SNL, only certain sketches. I must say I usually will watch an iTunes show on my regular Mac and rarely on an iPod but hey, if you're on line at the DMV there are worse things to do.

I'm all for the presence of both of these options and will continue using them as long as they're available.

Oh and as for HD, Blu-Ray and all that, that doesn't sway me much. Just like with SACD or DVD audio I'll wait to see if it catches on but until then I'm not joining the bandwagon.

Hi Gord!

At February 01, 2006 10:12 PM, Blogger Gord Lacey said...

So Bill, when will we see some "Candid Camera" clips show up on iTunes?



At February 02, 2006 1:33 AM, Anonymous Bill Funt said...

Funny you should say that Gord. There's no firm answer but I wouldn't mind if that happened, depending on various variables.

Actually, with all this talk about iTunes is anybody aware of a similar service that's now on Google? You can buy episodes of I Love Lucy, Brady Bunch, Twilight Zone, Survivor, Charlie Rose, Bullwinkle, and others.

Only thing that looks bad is that you need Windows to do it.

At February 05, 2006 8:27 PM, Anonymous TomC said...

It's an entirely different model and not really a fair comparison. Downloading the first 15 episodes of Kim possible for only $9.99 was a great value since Disney refuses to release season sets. Yep, I can only watch them on my laptop, but that fits my already crowded schedule, so it works for me.

At March 03, 2006 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have cable so the only way I was able to see the second half of Battlestar Galactica season 2 was to download the episodes from iTunes. I don't have a video iPod so I just watched them on my computer. Full screen, 1024 x 768. While nothing close to DVD quality, I was suprised at how watchable it was. I may not even re-watch these episodes when they're finally released on DVD, so in my case it probably *did* affect DVD sales.

It's not quite the same as your Lost analogy since Battlestar Galactica is cable only and in my case, getting it from iTunes was the *only* option.


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