yesterday's technology tomorrow
Wednesday, February 22, 2006Today marks the launch of Australia's first video download service, kicked off by Telstra Bigpond.
As a brief summary, it is an online service that allows you to "rent" videos for 7 days or so, download them to your windows PC and play them there. I say rent because they disappear after a the time period elapses. The service mimics the BigPond Movies DVD service from a look and feel and has similar functionality; browse, search, popular lists and recommendations (built by me). Nothing amazing here.
What is interesting is taking a more "producty" view and looking at how Telstra implemented this service, how long it has taken and their approach to what functionality to include.
Rumors of Telstra building a video download service first came out in late 2004, so its taken around 18 months to go to launch. While launching back in 2004 would have been too early, it is interesting to contrast the length of the development cycle with the current crop of web services which generally aim for v1.0 in 3 months and then build from there. Comparing the Starz Entertainments video download service which was design in early 2005 and launched in jan 2006 shows that Telstra was not too slow when looking at comparable companies (10 vs 18 months).
Reading in The Age earlier this week, there was a comment by the Managing director of ReelTime Media, John Karantzis that they think this service won't work because it won't match DVD quality. They're wrong! The service may not work and it may not survive, but it won't be because you don't get the DVD/widescreen/hifi quality. Ask anyone who has used a Div X'd downloaded movie that was rip'd from a DVD rather than handheld shot in a cinema and they will tell you the quality is just fine. And the BigPond Video files are about 3 times the size which will give you better quality.
So its not a DVD, but thats EXACTLY the point. Sure, you want DVD for the latest Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings etc; but do you want or need it for back catalogue content or are you willing to trade off the quality for timeliness. My bet is YES. Why go to a video store when you can download the video right now for a similar price.
The biggest downside is the continued use of Microsoft Media Player which completely wipes out the Mac market and continues to provide a "less than optimal" user experience. I personally believe this will be a huge hinderance when iTunes offers exactly the same content that Telstra offers and which can be downloaded to an iPod which can then be docked into the DVD with one simple cable. iTunes vs Windows Media ....no contest as to which is more useable.
Is the market ready to pay for downloads to display on your PC? Its going to be slow growth to be sure, but Telstra is in the best position to make it happen and to last until the market comes to it. Can they iterate fast enough to keep the service fresh and growing; history would say they will struggle. This is the key opportunity for new entrants....let Telstra create and grow the market then steal away their clients with better features, cheaper prices etc. Added to this space is the inevitable iTunes offering which already has short form downloads to the most popular portable entertainment device ever.
BigPond has been creating more of these "content" services as it tries to add value to its broadband subscribers. There is the DVD rental service, games, sports, a little trial TV project and the Music downloads project (which is a looooooong way behind iTunes in sooo many ways.)
So, its going to be an interesting ride for BigPond as they try to create the market which is obviously very very young. Its competing with the BitTorrent crowd along with video stores and to a degree, its own DVD rental service.
Congratulations to everyone who has been involved..
Random Pile of Ben
ben at neuronwave dot com