October 13th, 2005

Apple Really Gets It

Back when Napster was king, and the only legal online music stores either had an eclectic selection (emusic) or hopelessly restrictive DRM, I was convinced that if someone could just come up with a comprehensive, easy, and non-cumbersome way to buy music that it would be a hit. Then Apple came a long and did it, and legal online music finally took off.

Over the past couple of years the online piracy battle has turned to movies and TV episodes. I'd been thinking again along the same lines I was thinking about music 5 years ago that if someone could just come up with a way to get current TV episodes available for sale at a modest price, that legal online TV episodes would take off. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but it turns out that Apple has done it again.

Apple has now made current TV episodes available in iTunes Music Store. The selection is a bit dismal, but it's a good start. Current hits Lost and Desperate Housewives are two of the series on offer. The other three series are ones I'd never heard of: Night Stalker, The Suite Life and That's So Raven. OK, so it's a bit slim pickings for now, but hopefully it'll get better. Individual episodes are priced at $1.99, though they have the same price for both hour long and half hour shows which is a bit weird.

Now for the downside: Unlike their audio offerings, currently Apple does not allow you to burn video episodes to DVD. This is unfortunate as watching video on a computer often isn't as nice as watching on a TV. I'm hoping for them to lift this restriction in the future. I haven't actually downloaded a video yet, so I'm not sure about the video quality either.

Some suggestions for Apple:

1) Lift the burning restriction!

2) Offer a "season pass" subscription where one can subscribe to the entire current season and have new episodes downloaded as soon as they are released.

3) Beef up the catalog. Here's some suggestions I think would really get noticed: 24 and Battlestar Galactica. Personally I'd also like to see the Law & Order series, and West Wing.

4) Along the lines of the free songs promotion, make deals with new series to feature a free episode per week.