More Apple Video Downloadable Content, Don’t Believe the Hype

Apple adds NBC, SciFi, USA to iTMS – The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW): It looks as though Apple is adding to their iTunes video download library by including more shows from NBC, USA, SciFi and Disney. In total they will be adding 11 new shows.

From CNET: “We’re thrilled to expand the iTunes video catalog with 11 popular TV shows,” Steve Jobs, Apple chief executive, said in a statement. Apple’s TV catalog now includes 16 shows.

Not to be a cynic here, but do I really want to pay $1.99 to watch “popular” shows like the 1950’s cop show “Dragnet” or can I live even one day without the cutting edge humor of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno?” And of course unless I’m watching these programs on anything other than a Video iPod I’m going to HATE the low res quality of the programming.

Although the promise of video on demand is great and Steve jobs is “thrilled,” about this latest development for Apple, don’t believe the hype. Low res video downloads of more 2nd rate programming will not sell at $1.99. It will be a novelty to put one episode of Dragnet on your Video iPod so that you can and show it off to your friends, but in it’s current incarnation TV downloads from Apple will not fly in the long run.

TiVo’s potential (if they can avoid being sued) of letting you put ANYTHING that YOU want (not that they want you to buy) for no additional cost on your iPod is the better value proposition. Or better yet, why not just copy ANY show that I want to record today from my Microsoft Media Center PC and watch it on MY laptop, LEGALLY and at NO ADDITIONAL cost to me? I’ve never been a fan of either the Video iPod or the Portable Media Centers though — the screens are too tiny and it’s not a very enjoyable way to watch TV.

iTunes TV downloads are a novelty. They will be downloaded by the niche diehard Appleheaded types, and the kids will most likely download the music videos, but as it stands now with the low res quality programming this thing will not be the hit that iTunes’ music has been — no matter how much Steve Jobs says he’s “thrilled,” and tries to call “Dragnet” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” “popular.”

Certainly the fact that Apple has sold more than 3 million videos since their debut on October 12 is impressive. But it would surprise me to see anything less coming from one of the strongest marketing brands in the world with a certain number of followers who would buy whatever they sold no matter what. The question is will this thing explode the way their iTunes has for music and that I tend to doubt.

Back in 2003 it took Apple eight weeks to sell 5 million iTunes downloads. Here we are three years later with a substantially more popular brand and they have sold 3 million video downloads in a similar amount of time. Some would point to this and say that Apple has another hit on it’s hands and that we should expect similar results. I think time will show though that the market for this product is much more limited and that after the initial buzz dies down that the growth subsides substantially. Of course Apple could always pressure the studios to offer us high res HDTV versions of their shows which could help in the future, but as it stands now this will not be the hit that people might assume based on the early 3 million download numbers.

It took Apple computer 11 months to sell 50 million songs and then another four months to get them to 100 million songs. If you ascribe a 60% of iTunes music proportion (based on the comparable 8 week numbers between the two products’ launch) then you might expect to see 30 million video downloads by September of next year and 60 million video downloads by January of 2007. These are numbers that you will not see and I will be back in both September 2006 and January 2007 to see how right or wrong I was.

Of course Apple is smart and they may course correct as time goes on and offer HDTV downloads which could potentially change the landscape.

Thanks, Steve.