How Many Separate Video Players Do I Really Need?

from the ask-Mr.-Owl dept

Downloading TV shows and movies is clearly becoming a competitive market as Netflix and Apple (as well as many others) start offering video on demand services. But with each new offering, it seems like viewers need a separate and proprietary piece of video playing software which is obviously aimed at enhancing the viewing experience for the audience. The DRM and the crazy number of different time limitations for how long you can watch you downloaded shows are really just bonus features. Imagine the glorious future of watching a la carte videos where every distribution channel has its own player and set of rules for how you can consume the content. Future DVRs will incorporate access control systems that would rival the most complex enterprise content management systems of today. I can’t wait to click through dozens of end-user agreements just to watch my favorite time-shifted shows! Progress is great.

While my vision of the future for watching videos in the US will hopefully be averted due to competition with BitTorrent, the EU is facing a tangled web of content regulation right now. Each of the 27 members of the European Union currently has its own right to agree to content distribution deals with video vendors, creating a patchwork of regulatory requirements that will likely hinder the development of pan-European media services. The New York Times notes that this situation will likely benefit the IP lawyers in Europe over the next few years, as service providers and content owners battle over each country’s legal requirements. While the European Commission is trying to create a more consumer-friendly set of regulations that every nation in the EU can agree to, it seems somewhat unlikely to happen in a timely fashion. The irony is that many of these video on demand services are aimed at giving consumers a legal alternative to piracy, but the red tape and legal disputes will be likely to point consumers to pirating until the dust has settled.

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Companies: apple, hbo, netflix, xbox

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Comments on “How Many Separate Video Players Do I Really Need?”

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Ben Madden says:

How many separate video players...

Very well put, Mr. Owl. Unfortunately, your vision of the future stands a better-than-even chance of being correct.

Comcast just rolled out a branded TiVo service in Boston, and it sounds like a headache for everyone from engineers to consumers.

I just watched a Movielink movie tonight, and was once again frustrated with the inability to fast-forward (download was complete) or rewind. And, if you should happen to click the Stop button right next to the Pause button, the movie starts over and there’s nothing you can do to get back to where you were. What’s up with that?

Well, thanks for letting me vent. I did enjoy your post and added a couple bookmarks from it. Keep up the good work.

Michael Long (user link) says:

Conflicted, yes, but...

How is this really any different than choosing among all of the DSL or cable or dish offerings that are out there and getting the set-top box that particular service requires?

You might like Apple TV and the pay-only-for-what-you-rent model, or maybe NetFlix’s monthly subscriptions appeal to you. Or maybe you’ll just skip it altogether and buy Blu-Ray.

Either way, the vast majority of consumers will make their decision and get their box and that will be that.

I know you’re exaggerating to make a point… but you’re exaggerating nonetheless.

Haywood says:

Re: Conflicted, yes, but...

I think you are a TV watcher, not a techie. On my PC I keep several “players” just because one simply doesn’t do it all. My first choice is Windows Media Player, but when that doesn’t work, often one of the others, like real alternative or VLC does. Same is true for my Media Center computer, (HTPC) mostly media center plays things, but sometime you have to go off the board, with the usual PC tricks.

Anonymous Coward says:

there is no exaggeration in the multitude of badly behaving players and horribly crippled DRM products out there the only way to really make it work is place a very reasonable fee on nearly DRM free products best way to make it pay is advertising place a scroll window on the bottom of the picture with advertising and remove it with a code set the fee low enough and people will pay and if they don’t well then you still get paid by the consumer
Wake up America

Anonymous Coward says:

Your View of TV Utopia

Microsoft (and others) have had similar concepts. On demand content sent to your device. Some of the more advanced versions include additional content (yes, and some ads) relative to what you are viewing.

For example, watching the big game and being able to browse/search through player and team stats or stream information about other games/events also in progress.

Microsoft displayed a technology at CES 2004 with these features, but no cable companies had joined to help provide services. I’m assuming because they planned on offering their own versions.

As far as platform independent content goes, unless you’re willing to run a non commercial system (Media Portal, MythTV, Freevo, PVR, etc…) you’ll always be out of luck.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Your View of TV Utopia

My bad, I looked it up, it was CES 2006, it was called “Microsoft TV” and it was delivered via a set top box.

Ironically, it had no integration with the Media center platform including the extenders. Showing that even within a single family of products content gets protected from itself.

Stephen says:


I’m with Haywood: I live by the VLC player. I don’t even use my VCR much anymore, preferring to download the shows I like, but which conflict with the times of shows my wife likes: CSI, Criminal Minds and Law & Order. You can watch CSI online, which I do sometimes, but the screen is so small a lot of detail is lost, and it can’t be resized. I don’t mind the commercials because I just mute the show and do something else on the computer for a minute or two.

RiotNrrd says:


I don’t have much to say on the general issues that hasn’t been said up-thread already, but I would like to bring a European perspective.

First of all, I have satellite service through Sky, and I rent a PVR box from them. This allows me to pause live TV and to record events, either on the fly or according to a schedule. Yes, I can also fast-forward the recorded events, even if recorded from the pay-per-view movie channels.

Secondly, in Europe there is a language issue as well as a legal issue with content distribution. Negotiating a right to distribute a series of Friends dubbed into French won’t do you much good in Germany, even if there is a common EU-level framework. English-language content is no use to most of Europe, as even those who can follow it often consider it “work” and would rather watch something in their native language, albeit dubbed.

Dubbing has its own pleasures, since it means Tom Cruise can have a proper deep manly voice…

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