What iTunes Taught Me About The Future of VOD And Illegal Content

Surprisingly enough, my call for action against US networks, asking them to allow me to pay for downloading their content from my country, didn’t result in a Million Man March to Washington.

So, I chose the other path – hacking the system:)

Part One – Breaking The System

I am using iTunes a lot. Though I can’t use my  credit card to purchase content, I found a simple way to use iTunes:

a. Find an American address (could be a hotel or any other establishment) and use its address for your iTunes account.

b. Buy iTunes gift cards in Amazon or an Apple store if you are visiting the US.

c. Redeem the card in iTunes – and you are on!

Part Two – Enjoying The Experience (While Spending Money…)

Now, this is cool. A true VOD experience on my computer, with class A content that I love to watch. And the biggest plus – no uncertainties.

You see, one of the things I hate most in downloading P2P content is that I don’t really know what I am getting at the end of day – is it really the movie I wanted to see? Is it in high quality? And when will I be able to see it? With iTunes I know exactly what I am getting. Episodes are downloaded fairly quickly, so I can decide that I want to watch a specific show, and half an hour later start watching it. Not perfect, but better than P2P experience. Also, I easily find shows iTunes store, so I am not wasting time. I bought $50 worth content in two months. Not bad isn’t it? The only annoying point is that rented movies are viewable for 24hrs – which is very lame. I am working long hours, so is my significant other, and we tend to watch films at night, sometimes falling asleep in-front of the computer. Therefore, we sometimes see movies over several days. This limitation is extremely annoying – and I hope Apple will change it soon.

Part Three – The Moral Dilemma

Then I fell in-love with Californication. After downloading the pilot and couple of season 1’s episodes fI became a fan. When I told my friend about it, he looked at me as if I am a loony – ” Why don’t you download it for free?” well, I said, I like the speed and simplicity of iTunes. “Ok, so I would download for you, and you could watch it whenever you want”.

So, this is the essence of the whole story isn’t it? iTunes’ value proposition is providing legal content, ease of use, and certainty in content quality. Would I pay for this service, when a free alternative exist?

I can speak only for myself – and say that yes, iTunes service is worthwhile paying for, even if I can download content illegally with almost no chance of legal action against me. It is a fact that in two months I paid iTunes more than I paid to my cable or satellite provider in two years. This is because iTunes is providing me the content i want to see in lower rate, and smarter business model, than my local VOD provider.

TV networks are shooting themselves in the leg by not allowing me to buy their content in a simpler way. They are losing money because of that. I can understand why they are doing that – but I can’t agree with their views.

Guys – let me pay you – at the end of the day you will make more money and happier customers.

And for the cable operators and VOD providers, here is a tip – price your service in comparison to iTunes, and not other VOD packages. This is the future – and if you won’t wake up – you would not be a part of it.


7 Responses to “What iTunes Taught Me About The Future of VOD And Illegal Content”

  1. 1 Adam Daniel Mezei June 5, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    That you can’t buy iTunes credit in Israel or use your IL-issued cc at iTunes doesn’t square with the fact that Apple’s likely got several developments sites in the country.

    Your researches or queries to them haven’t resulted in any action steps on their part?

  2. 2 Bill Cammack June 5, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Your points about ‘certainty’ and ‘time’ are spot-on. This is why people are willing to rent box sets of DVDs of entire seasons of shows, even though they don’t have cable… or sometimes don’t even have a television.

    Actually, the same arguments can be applied to producing content instead of viewing it. People can choose to pay for it and have the final product look good… or do it themselves, in which case, they have no certainty of quality, AND the time they’ll waste learning what to do and then learning how to do it (poorly) could have been spent by them way more productively.

    Essentially, they *lose* money by taking themselves out of being financially productive for way more hours than it would have taken someone that they hired who knows what they’re doing. In terms of watching shows, it’s better to pay for it and get exactly what you want, in exactly the quality you want it, exactly WHEN you want it.

  3. 3 Kfir Pravda June 5, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    @Adam – to my knowledge, Apple doesn’t have an Israeli dev center – only a distributor. They also stated couple of times that Israeli iTunes store is not in their plan for the next year or so.

    @Bill – I completely agree – though I believe that most people can define what is good, but not write a spec for that….

  4. 4 Or-Tal Kiriati June 5, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Sorry to go back to low-tech, but… I recently purchased a recording DVD with an enormous hard drive. I program recordings of shows that interest me, such as “Californication” or “will& Grace” or “House” and watch them whenever I want. If a movie is worth watching several times or deserves the home-cinema, I can even burn it on a DVD. What do you think? 😉

  5. 5 Kfir Pravda June 5, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    @Or-Tal – yes, the solution you are proposing is valid. However you are paying more money to get loads of content that you don’t want, just in order to get the content you do want. I am just paying for what I want to see.

  6. 6 Robot55 June 5, 2008 at 7:05 pm


    While I always empathize with your deep mac immersion when I read your posts – I have alot of remarks on this one:

    A) You have broken several laws (some international & US Federal) and conducted illegal activity – You falsified your identity, living address, and perjured yourself when signed that you declare that all the info u submit is true!

    Now – personally, I don’t care the least about that and on occasion have to resort to such means myself 🙂 – but you have commited illegal international activity just so you can behave & pay as a law-abiding user!!

    That internal-contradiction in your actions – is the greatest pun of this story (to me) 🙂

    B) Factual debate – you mentioned speed. iTunes has one of the slowest VOD content delivery on the web today!! Both on the original iTunes and on the new movie rentals. They can’t deliver video content ‘for shot’ (if I can be blunt). Even when you are inside the US – it’s way way slower than streaming video sites, or other CDN based hosting services.
    Ask your friend Google about “itunes slow downloads” and read just the first few dozens of over 2.5 Million results!

    C) In fact, and I’m sorry to shamelessly plug 1 of the products our company developed – we have a “Video Accelerator for iTunes”, which we sell for a yearly subscription! I’m mentioning that not as an advertisement – but to show that the iTunes VOD slowness is SO bad – that users will agree to pay an extra subscription, in addition to the iTunes subscription they pay for already.

    D) DUDE – iTunes content is DRM based !!!! That alone should prevent you (or anyone) from praising it. Try to copy your songs /videos to more than 3 destinations – even if they are all legit – you can’t! They won’t let you!
    Wehn you Torrent your music – you can copy it and move it as much as you want –
    when you purchased yours – you are limited to 3 lame copies….
    DRM is against humanity by definition (don’t they teach that at schools nowadays? 😉
    People are worried about the greenhouse-effect & pollution – I worry about DRM!
    it will be the cause of humanity’s end – mark my words 😉

    E) And this is a more general note: I think that very much like you, I am also constantly amazed by the sheer difference apple products & software treat me as a user, compared to windows. amazing design, innovative UI, an amazing combo of aesthetics & practicality – U name it!
    But – I think that sometimes, in order for our empathy towards something to be maximized, we tend to color the picture pink – slowly losing touch with the situation @ hand.

    F) Back to the topic at hand – iTunes clearly proved beyond doubt they know how to serve & sell media content delivery (we are talking about bytes, not atoms – to quote Nick Negroponte). That said,
    they still have a long way to go technology-wise, and market-wise.

    iTunes DRM, Like Apple’s ‘Locked iPhone’ strategy – is a very wrong corporate standpoint, IMH, one which apple will run away form soon – or pay a bitter price.

    G) Last (but not least) – One Note: I am reading a lot of blogs by apple users and fans. I like yours considerably. However, I have failed to see you criticize any of their products or services. By that rationale – It seems you experience a series of PERFECT products and user experience. The truth is FAR from it – but this is probably better left for another discussion.

    H) So while I can’t really relate to this post – I can say that I never used to by shareware apps on PC – and the MAc drove me to it… 🙂

    Sorry for making my reply longer than the original post — I have a tendency to do that 😦


  7. 7 Kfir Pravda July 2, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Hi David – took me some time, but here is my response to your lengthy comment:
    A) you are right! sad, isn’t it?
    B) Yes it is not that fast, but it is faster than using P2P illegal download if you are looking for something that is not a recent hit
    C)Would love to hear more about your product and test it a bit – but how many are actually using it?
    D) the average user doesn’t care about DRM – and I am willing to get DRM content if it is in high quality and on time.
    E)I do like Apple products, and till now I didn’t see any major issue with it. I am very enthusiastic about their ability to create superior products. However, I am still critical about their products – when I’ll see something wrong with them 🙂
    F) that’s and intriguing issue. There is a Wired article about how everything that Apple is doing everything wrong but still winning a market share.
    G) well – is their products PERFECT? or Windows’ user experience suck so much that I feel in heaven when using Apple products?

    And last but not least – It is great that you are investing time and effort if the conversation here – THANK YOU for that!

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