There was a rumor a while ago about Apple possibly developing a movie equivalent of their iTunes Music Store. These are my thoughts on implementation of such a thing.
1. The boogey man of digital media: Digital Rights Management.
A. What kind of burning and copying restrictions would Apple place on downloaded movies? Blocking burning altogether would not be a good idea, as many people would have no idea how to hook their computer up to their television. Then how do you display the movie on something larger than a computer screen? The SuperDrive would seem to be the obvious solution. Then comes the question of third-party external burner support . . . I imagine Apple would only officially support DVD-R drives shipped by themselves, leaving add-on support to OEMs or enterprising users, much like the iTunes CD-R drivers. Three burns per movie?
B. Would the movies be transferable to multiple machines as songs are with the iTunes Music Store? A mechanism to authorize movies on multiple machines would seem to be a good idea. The advantage (and dis-advantage, depending on how you look at it) of using the .Mac login/password for authorization is that due to the number of services those can be used to access, they are not something people are going to be willing to give out freely to those they do not know and/or trust.
2. Who can access the store: broadband ONLY.
A. This would cut off a portion of the potential customer base, but also ensure that movies could be delivered speedily, a boon to both provider and consumer. Modem connections are too easily broken (not to mention slow). Oops, Billy picked up the phone before the last two megabytes of “Plan 9 From Outer Space” finished. I suppose this could be worked around by using a resume feature. Do you really want connection sockets taken up by someone downloading “Ishtar” on a 33.6K modem?
B. If done right (reliable, high quality, good selection), such a service may well increase the adoption of broadband (assuming multi-platform availability).
3. Fee structuring: who gets the $$?
A. What would the pricing model be? Rentals would be welcomed by consumers, but are just not practical from a content-provider standpoint. If the media can be transfered to a computer and played, it can be recorded. A rental model would also limit the possible use of the available SuperDrives for burning to DVD for playback on a home theater system. $10-$15 USD per movie?
B. As for the division of the fee, Apple and the studios would have to work that out.
4. The Content Itself: Codecs, compatibility, extras.
A. What codec would deliver the best quality/size ratio? H.263 is supposed to be quite good (Update 10/27/04: H.264, which will be supported in 10.4, would be better) and is already supported by QuickTime 6.3. In addition to the quality and size considerations, there is the matter of adding DRM atop them.
B. Use the Mac market as a testbed or simultaneously release Mac and Windows clients?
C. Extra content? Would the file include all the extras included with a DVD or should they be available as a separate, but free download?
5. Interface: making it easy to use and as addictive as the iTunes Music Store.
A. For movies, a genre browser similar to that available in iTunes would make sense. It would be great to be able to browse by actor, director, or genre.
B. Previews – trailers or actual film segments? Using the trailers would best capitalize on Apple’s existing movie trailer service.
C. Including movies of interviews with those related to the film (director, actors) would add some interest.
D. Online reviews available? Professional film reviews or user contributed?
E. Meta-data aplenty: Add “tags” for (many that apply to music can also be used to organize movies):
F. Links to the iTunes Music Store where applicable: soundtrack and possibly individual track listings.
G. The ability to give a movie credit as a gift (something that has been requested for the iTunes Music Store). There would be too many issues with people being given movies they don’t want. There is no easy way to refund them, so a gift certificate would make more sense.