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?