Why Use Starz Vongo Service for Remote Viewing When I Can do the Same Thing with My Media Center PC Now for Free?

Provider of TV Movie Channels Looks to Expand to PC’s and Video Players – New York Times So there’s a lot of buzz out this morning (top story on Memeorandum, chatter at Digg, etc.) regarding the new service that Starz Entertainment Group is rolling out, a $9.99 per month subscription service that will allow people to download movies from the Internet and watch them on their computers, portable video players and TV sets.

“The new offering, called Vongo, comes at a time when movie studios and television networks are rapidly expanding their efforts to distribute their content over the Internet, experimenting with both paid and advertiser-supported models.

“We see a market out there of people who are saying, ‘I want to choose what I want to watch, control how I watch it and watch it wherever I am,’ ” said Robert Greene, a senior vice president at Starz, which operates pay movie channels under the Starz or Encore name and is owned by Liberty Media, the company controlled by John C. Malone, the cable entrepreneur.”

My question is (and I hope I’m not killing my freedom to do this) why would I pay for a service like this when I can just record shows off of Starz or HBO or the networks or wheverever for free (or more correctly included in the price I’m paying already for my content) and then copy the files over to my laptop and watch them on the road whenever and wherever I want?

I’ve been doing this for a number of years and while I don’t get to pinpoint a specific download file per se, I would assume that the movies that Starz is hawking are the same ones that it has the rights to as a broadcaster and why not just tell your Media Center PC to record the shows for you and then transfer the files across?

So what worries me about Vongo? This: “Starz will shift to technology from Microsoft that will allow movies to be downloaded and watched on portable video players using Microsoft’s software.”

Microsoft needs to walk a delicate balance between providing software and tools for content providers while at the same time empowering consumers to use their technology to have their TV anywhere anytime. Will Microsoft sell me and my ability to copy shows from my Media Center PC over to my laptop out to Hollywood for a quick turn of a DRM buck?

I’m worried that the freedom that I’ve had to copy all of my TV over to my laptop with Media Center in the past is going to be nixed by Microsoft in the next Vista version of Media Center. I suppose because Media Center has not been widely adopted yet that they’ve probably let early adopters like me get away with this, but I worry that with the DRM coming in the next version of Media Center that my days of transfering programming to my laptop for free may be over. A sad day if/when it comes to this.

I also wonder how Microsoft/Starz will address things like Orb that allow me to take content from my Media Center and view it remotely for free.

So will I need to maintain TWO versions of Media Center in the future? One version on an XP PC to record shows DRM free and copy unrestricteda and a second version of Media Center Vista in order to get the newly announced CableCARD support which will finally give me HDTV PVR support through Media Center? And will this strategy even work or will Microsoft change the file format on all TV recorded on Media Center even with XP to prevent me from making unrestricted copies to my laptop? Or am I completely over-reacting here and will I still have control to transfer my recorded TV files in Vista?

I think Digg user James Wilson has a good point when he asks, “so if I am paying a Starz subscription fee already to my cable company to legally watch these movies whenever I want, why should I pay $9.95-a-month to watch them with DRM at lower quality?

BitTorrent sounds like a much better, more natural option. If I pay for the content already…..why would I pay for this?”

Update: Paid Content has read the Vongo terms of service agreement and it leaves me even more wanting to skip the whole thing and continue recording off my Media Center for free:

“– “Please be advised that the Vongo Client will only allow you to have 10 Content files in your download list at a time.
— Except for Pay Per View Content, each Content file downloaded will allow you to have 10 24-hour periods to view the Content, provided that the Content does not otherwise expire due to availability.
— For Pay Per View Content, you will be provided with 1 24-hour viewing period, which period shall commence when you initiate the viewing of the Content.
— Please be advised that not all Content may be available for all purposes. For example, some Content will not be downloadable to some or all personal media devices, and some Content may be available on a Pay Per View basis but not on a subscription basis, or vice versa.”

Who needs all these restrictions when you can get all the same stuff without any?

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6 Comments

  1. Ian says:

    I think your right to be worried.
    We enjoy a lot of flexibily at the moment and the rise of pay services will put persure on that flexibilty. Lets hope that Microsoft can keep a fair balance.

    Just being able to copy some movies recorded off TV on to my Tablet PC for watching on the plane is what Media Center is all about. I would not pay extra or pay for a service to do the same thing.
    I feel another DRM show is due

  2. Xrayspex says:

    This is NOT a new service- just a gigantic PR stunt for “Starz”.
    Starz has had the exact same service through real player for over 2 years now.
    All they did was change the name to “Vongo” and included Windows Media Player to watch the films.
    Same EXACT service STARZ has had on Real for over two years!

  3. Anonymous says:

    The current content is so small, and all the decent recent films are pay-per-view, that I don’t see this as much of a service at all so far.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The answer to Vista is not to use it. Linux and Sagetv are a great combination. XP is probably the last microsoft product I’ll ever use what with Bill Gates getting deep in bed with Hollywierd. The download sites are so far all self destruct downloads and don’t appeal to me at all when I can record shows right to my harddrive and transcode them to fit any portable device easily enough.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yeah recording on your MCPC is a great idea…except the fact that it is illegal…or at the very least questionable. Especially when dealing with a cable company broadcast on commercial-free channels.
    Why not just go download from bittorrent too while you’re at it?
    Vongo is a way to get the movies legally.
    The 10 video limit is when actually downloading them..you can have dozens stored on your drive at any given time.

    $10 a month is great and it’s completely untrue that “the good ones are pay per view”

    I can’t believe people are hypocritical of pay per view on a monthly service..you act like no one has ever paid for cable (and the pay per view channels they all have)..or satellite (want to talk about a ripoff..satellite is it)

    I hear the complaints from all these people and it just seems like whining to me.
    Seriously, if you had a multi-million dollar enterprise wouldn’t you want to keep people from STEALING it for FREE?

    lol…please..The only people I -ever- hear complaining about this is the people that want to get something for free (ie pirates despite them not knowing it)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hi I first discovered Vongo through my media center as a choice of something to watch over the web as I was exploring this area of my new OS. I honestly didn’t catch where it would be coming from until after installing everything needed to be up and running. I have had it running now for better than a week and have downloaded forty or more movie??? I am an avid movie watcher more so than most as I am severely disabled and it’s important for me to at least be listening to th sounds of a movie in the background in an effort to keep my mind off of pain and the like. To date Vongo has been a great blessing to me as it has opened up a world of old movies and movies that I would never have rented or planned to sit down and watch or something like that as I best am able to relay my feelings about many of the titles.

    It’s not true that all the good titles or newer releases are all pay for view in reality there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme not reason for their choices of pay per view movies. many are out of date and I wouldn’t want to watch them anyway. To the contrary I have found a whole slew of movies that have been as if watching them as they were released in great sleepers and the like. There’s a preview feature that has helped me to go ahead and decide to download anything that I’m not familiar with. I am in no way what so ever affiliated with any movie or the like affiliated company. I am just a guy who watches a lot of movies. If anyone from Vongo should find my comments I would say to you thank you for now. Later I would ask that you knock your heads around and figure out how you can advertise us to death or the like in an effort to remove the monthly fee. $10.00 a month is pretty steep for me and for anyone if you consider that we can simply add a movie channel to our cable for less. I am sure that bandwidth is not free either but forgive us, we’re very used to being accommodated to the umpteenth degree when it comes to free access to the web and it’s contents. I would more so than anything else ask why the pay per view at all? Isn’t the membership fee enough?

    Thank you,

    Tony…

    It;s not true that all the good titles or newer releases are all pay for view in reality there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme notr reaso for theri choices of pay per view movies. many are out of date and I wouldn’t want to watch them anyway. To the contrary I have found a whole slew of movies that have been as if watching themn as they were released in great sleepers and the like. There’s a preview feature that has helped me to go ahead and decide to download anything that I’m not familiar with. I am in no way what so ever affiliated with any movie or the like affiliated company. I am just a guy who watches a lot of movies. If anyone from Vongo should find my comments I would say to you thank you for now. Later I would ask that you knock your heads around and figure out how you can advertise us to death or the like in an effort to remove the monthly fee. $10.00 a month is pretty steap for me and for anyone if you consider that we can simply add a movie channel to our cable for less. I am sure that bandwidth is not free either but forgive us, we’re very used to being accomodated to the umpteenth degree when it comes to free access to the web and it’s contents. I would more so than anything else ask why the pay per view at all? Isn’ the membership fee enough?
    Thank you, Tony…