MovieBeam: What Happens When Technology Obsession Surpasses User Needs

from the what-problem-are-they-solving? dept

The concept of Disney’s MovieBeam effort never made much sense to us. When it was first announced, it seemed so expensive and so limited that we couldn’t understand why anyone would bother — a view that was supported when the whole operation appeared to shut down a year ago. That’s why it was a bit surprising earlier this year to see it suddenly come back to life with a lot more money and a few minor modifications. However, the idea still doesn’t seem to be winning many fans. If you don’t recall (or don’t want to click back), it’s basically a set top box (yes, another one) that has a continually rotating store of about 100 movies. You have to pay $200 for the box, plus another $30 activation fee plus there’s still a per-movie fee. In other words, it’s sort of like pay-per-view, but you have to pay $230 and set up a special box just to see what’s there. Not surprisingly, the initial reviews aren’t exactly glowing, leading alarm:clock to note accurate that this appears to be executives getting excited over technology, and forgetting about the users (or assuming they’d figure that part out later). Of course, alarm:clock notes that MovieBeam missed that in this “first” attempt, perhaps not realizing it’s already the second strike.

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Comments on “MovieBeam: What Happens When Technology Obsession Surpasses User Needs”

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Topher3105 (profile) says:

Why not work with digital cable?

What they really don’t understand is that most cable companies are offering on demand content through existing cable boxes. Why can’t Disney simply work out a deal where users can subscribe to a special digital cable channel to access their content. In Canada, we have the Movie Network on Demand and specialty channels like Treehouse on Demand for children’s content. We even had free Winter Olympic coverage on Demand.

While digital cable may not be available in all markets, and movie beam hoped to have greater range by using a proprietary wireless network to reach rual America, digital cable is expanding and becoming more feature rich, and it makes sense to invest in this technology rather then creating a proprietary system.

Another example of how Disney has more money then brains, and has quickly become a money making engine rather then a family entertainment enterprise.

Wade says:

I think the service is well executed, but I agree on the hardware cost being an issue. Being a Disney employee I was able to get a unit for $99 with no activation fee. I think that is just about right (though a bigger drive in the future would be nice).

@AnarChos: there are more studios than just Disney’s available. And while I don’t think we will see any iPod support, there are plans to support Portable Media Center v2 devices to download movies to (like Vongo).

More studios are trying to find “secure” ways to get their content available as easily and quickly as possible. For example Disney is one of the several studios who wants to shrink the annoying DVD->PPV->HBO/etc->Cable->Broadcast windows.

For example The Chronicles of Narnia was available in SD and Hi-Def on Tuesday, the same day the DVD was available in stores. It’s pretty much the only way to see it in Hi-Def until it shows up on HD-PPV (perhaps?) or Starz (and my cable provider doesn’t have Starz-HD yet).

I think MovieBeam is a needed stepping stone into this new thought process on content distribution. And it doesn’t require broadband internet to get there. I believe the goal is having Comcast, Verizon, and other MSOs to be able to offer secure rental services such as this with their own future set-top boxes. I’d love a subscription plan like Vongo’s myself.

Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions says:

Disney Set Top Box

Is the quality as poor and grainy as cable’s “On Demand” service?

I for one would rather own my own library and never again have to be beholden to services like this…I can’t think of 40 Disney movies I’d want to see, let alone 100 — and I have a 3 yr old!

Disney should take a look at the “Apple” Harvard case studies from the late 80’s and early 90’s…their proprietary approach almost cost them everything. Steve Jobs even admits this. Disney is about as poorly a run business as you’ll find out there and if it wasn’t for the Bible Belt, they’d be out of business.

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