Movie Downloads Get Even More Confusing Thanks To Sony

from the this-is-not-a-step-forward dept

The New York Times is talking up a new experiment that Sony is running with the movie Hancock. Before the movie is even available for rental, owners of a specific Sony television with a special “internet package” (only $299) will be able to download the movie for a fee (as if the $299 weren’t already enough). The New York Times piece seems to go out of its way to make Sony look like it’s made some huge breakthrough with this offering, in part because it brings together the content side of the business with the consumer electronics side — two groups that not only rarely spoke, but were often at odds with each other on certain projects. On that part, perhaps it is a step forward — but for the overall market, this seems like a big step backwards.

Requiring a specific brand of TV just to watch a movie over the internet seems hugely problematic. And, when you combine that with Apple, Netflix, Blockbuster and others all working on their own proprietary solutions for downloading movies to watch on your television, the entire market is splintering. By now, you would think the industry would recognize that proprietary solutions that only play on a particular piece of hardware tend not to be a very good solution, and actually scare off buyers who don’t want to get stuck having bet on the wrong horse. But, apparently, someone forgot to tell all of these guys working on their own proprietary movie download solutions.

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Companies: sony

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Comments on “Movie Downloads Get Even More Confusing Thanks To Sony”

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PaulT (profile) says:

If only the movie was anything to do with Hitchcock… I think you mean Hancock 😉

This is one of those schemes that sounds good on paper in a boardroom but won’t work in real life. Sony are trying to leverage their movie division to help sell its electronics division’s products. They’ve correctly identified a common problem and a possible incentive to piracy (some people can’t/won’t go to theatres, but will still want to watch the movie while the hype’s at its peak). However, a $299 device using a proprietary format that you can’t copy, especially given Sony’s DRM track record, won’t attract anyone.

If only the movie industry would learn from the mistakes that the music industry have made over the last decade – they’re parts of the same corporations, FFS. Music sales have struggled because of confusing DRM, high prices and inflexibility. What the movie industry needs is a common format unencumbered with unnecessary restrictions – you know, like the AVIs people can already download from P2P.

David Muir (profile) says:

Devices capable of streaming

The Bravia will be the first specific brand that Sony offers this with. I tend to look on the bright side: this means that the device is capable of network connectivity. If the first content is Hancock (not Hitchcock — although I was thinking “if only” like PaulT seeing that mistake) and it is offered through some encrypted, proprietary site, so be it. But maybe that means general streaming or even downloading (just like picking up broadcast, cable, or satellite signals) will be a standard part of televisions eventually.

Greg (user link) says:

By now, you would think the industry would recognize that proprietary solutions that only play on a particular piece of hardware tend not to be a very good solution, and actually scare off buyers who don’t want to get stuck having bet on the wrong horse

Counterpoint: iTunes/iPod is a locked, proprietary system that works.

The thing is, every big company wants to think they can pull it off as well as Apple did, so they go for it. But they can’t, usually, make it work. And this is Sony, late of BetaMax, Minidisc, MemoryStick, and BluRay – they just love making up pointless new ways to store or transfer data.

It would take an incredible act of humility, from a global corporate giant, to admit that their in-house solution isn’t as good (read that as easy to use, popular, stylish, and/or profitable) as Apple’s. That, and using anyone else’s proprietary solution means giving up a big chunk of the money. And since the only proven non-proprietary system for downloading large video files is Bit Torrent, which Sony would never touch, they don’t have too many other options.

It doesn’t help that I’ve never wanted the Internet on my TV. It’s just not something that hit me as an obvious shortcoming of the device, even if Hancock does look like a decent movie.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m not sure how ‘locked’ you can really call iTunes/iPod, really. Yeah, the m4a format or whatever only plays on iPods, but iPods play more than m4a’s. And iTunes sells (some) mp3s. More to the point, iTunes provides a reasonably simple and robust way to organize and sort your entire music library, and it just happens to also sync up natively with Apple’s music player. This is all a lot different than a TV with is just like any other TV except that Sony will rent you a movie sooner. The TV itself is nothing to write home about and the ‘service’ that Sony is offering isn’t anything you can’t get elsewhere (even ifthe content is ‘new’).

Greg (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

iTunes is locked in that you can’t get content into it (or off of it for that matter) without going through Apple, and you can’t play your iTunes purchases on anything other than iTunes or an iPod. DRM-free MP3s on iTunes plus is a good counter-example to that rule, but it’s fairly new, and fairly limited – and at any rate, the platform itself still allows a lot of control, even if Apple is starting to relax that.

It is a different case, definitely, and much less destined for failure than Sony’s TV thing, but the point I was making is that “proprietary solutions that only play on a particular piece of hardware” can work in the marketplace without scaring off users. It just requires them to be well-executed, which this Sony thing doesn’t appear to be.

Greg (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

It’s not a complaint, I’m just pointing it out as an example of a closed, proprietary, system that worked in the marketplace. Apple puts your content in the store, which can then only be consumed on an Apple iPod (more or less – that’s clearly the basic goal, anyway, even if it’s not 100% accurate). As opposed to something like The Pirate Bay, where no one vets anything and you can upload or download anything you want.

iTunes is no different from Sony’s idea here, except that Apple pulled it off in a way that wasn’t terrible. That’s the point I’m getting at.

Mr. mo says:

Re: Re: It's ok

Piracy is the answer to our problems. As long as there are media pirates out there, companies will be forced to EVENTUALLY acknowledge how their ever increasing DRM is alienating customers. I love Sony products, but I keep them to a minimum now… DRM. I think that fewer people will buy sony’s tv with the service than without. I most certainly will NOT buy this type of product.

Mort says:

Re: Re:

It doesn’t help that I’ve never wanted the Internet on my TV.

I’ve never wanted TV on my computer, either. Convergence (“Look! Internet on my TV! Look! TV on my Internet!”) is just a dream/scheme hyped by the hardware vendors and content providers, so the hardware vendors can lock you into their proprietary solution, while the content providers get to determine how, if and when you get to view their product. I say, thanks, but no thanks. I’ll take my plain old TV and my commodity computer and I’ll determine how, if or when I engage the hardware and/or the content.


Re: Re:

iTunes and iPod are only a partially locked and proprietary. While you are certainly heavily encouraged to ‘stay on the reservation’ it’s certainly not necessary. You can happily use iPods and iTunes without ever buying anything else from Apple.

To be comparable, this Sony TV would have to be a generic upnp client.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Counterpoint: iTunes/iPod is a locked, proprietary system that works.”

I know what yopu’re saying with this, but it’s not exactly true. The iPod/iTunes combo works fine – if you own an iPod and a Windows/OSX system. At the moment, that happens to be the majority of people buying digital music, and it’s an easy enough solution that the plebs out there don’t bother looking for a better solution.

However, things are changing. More and more people are coming across the restrictions of the iTunes DRM – leading other stores to be able to offer DRM-free music that work with iTunes and offering competition for the first time since iTunes opened. In addition, while iTunes has certainly been successful, its rise has not been enough to replace the fall in CD sales. CDs, of course, being a format that anyone can play anywhere, regardless of which CD player they happen to own.

As someone who spent last Christmas explaining to my parents why their newly purchased HP photo printer wouldn’t accept their Sony camera’s memory stick, I really wish Sony would stop this crap before it’s too late. I don’t think I have to hold my breath before this one fails though.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Why the hate...?

It’s simple. Sony have a long, inglorious history of screwing over the customer with restriction and proprietary solutions that harm the customer despite the other advantages they may offer (see: Betamax, rootkits, Blu-Ray region coding, UMD, etc.).

“Trying to find a business model” isn’t an acceptable excuse when the models they try are harming their consumers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe I misunderstood when I took econ in college, but when somebody has a limited monopoly on a product, arent they supposed to try and sell it for an outrageous price. Screw business models, let the evil corporation try their best. anybody who buys products for more then they are worth has that right, and if you really want to watch hancock at home on your sony television which was overpriced by paying for an overpriced service and then paying a fee per movie, go ahead. Im just going to download it, because will smith has plenty of monies, as does sony.

The problem, as it has been pointed out, is when sony hides rootkits on cds without alerting the customer that they are actually introducing vulnerabilities onto their computer when they listen to the cd. but that really has nothing to do with this issue…

deadzone says:

Let's See...

Expensive? Check.

Proprietary? Check.

Locked Down with DRM? Check.

Sony appears to have another winner on it’s hands! Will they ever learn? All signs point to NO.

Could you imagine how many people would buy this tv if they simply included network connectivity? I do not understand what is so hard to understand about the concept of allowing the consumer to have a choice in how they use media. (user link) says:

What these companies need to realize is if they don’t unify this sort of technology, none of them are going to easily succeed. This is the technology of future content delivery and of course everyone wants their delivery to be the one. But, it isn’t going to work if we are all using different formats. This move by Sony is really stupid, as it requires you to have a specific television to even do it. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t atleast roll out a player like Netflix has that can be hooked to any TV. They could even go as far as making the system work on a PS3 too. That would likely get them more market share in this area, as there are over 15 million PS3s already out there (and that number keeps growing). They can even keep their TVs with the ability to natively support this sort of downloadable content, but they need to make a “player” available to other brands of TVs if they want their delivery system to succeed. Another point that I have a problem with is this $299 setup fee. That is just outrageous, especially if you still are paying for each individual movie. If the movies were free with a subscription of $199-$299 a year, I can understand that.

Michael Long (user link) says:


So come up with a standard. One thing to remember is that the AppleTV is bascially a stripped-down Mac mini. i.e., it’s a computer.

As such, it’s just one software update away from supporting any “standard” that might down the pike, just like iPods also support mp3s and AACs and mpegs. In fact, it just recently got the ability to do “rentals” in just that fashion, with the AppleTV 2.0 software update.

Gentlemen. says:

Re: AppleTV

I agree with Michael. What would be good for the customer would also in the long term be best for the industry.

However, since the early successes of Blockbuster, Hollywood has always been very interested in trying to get into the rental/Pay per use model. However, if hollywood leveraged some of the technologies that have come to pass in the past 5 years, it would render the PPV model obsolete. By lowering manufacturing, distribution, and advertising costs to nil, it may make more sense to consider selling the content digitally for less, absent of a PPV/Rental model. So what does the production company get for a video sale anyway? $1.25? $5.00?

First, in order to have a “good” PPV model, you need to standardize to gain critical mass. Multiple technologies only confuse consumers, and the already non-compatible technologies will create FUD in the consumer mindset.

But this has it’s own challenges- the idea of standardization levels the playing field from a technology perspective. Is there an “Open” DRM technology? (That seems paradoxical.)

Also the potential of monthly bandwidth caps or Net neutrality makes a PPV model less applicable. PPV has the potential to download the same content over and over again, increasing network utilization exponentially and has the potential to push backbone bandwidth past the breaking point. It would be best to just download the content once.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: AppleTV

“However, since the early successes of Blockbuster, Hollywood has always been very interested in trying to get into the rental/Pay per use model.”

To my mind, that’s actually the biggest problem with the industry. They not only ignored VHS but actively fought it until they were forced to accept it. Then, they found that they could leverage the rental/sales model to make massive profits.

There’s a sea change in the industry once again. They should accept it and use it to their advantage, not fight an unwinnable battle yet again.

As for DRM, I really don’t think that most people have a major problem with a DRM system for rentals and temporary downloads. The major problems here are threefold: they are pricing the rentals too high, they are forcing insanely inflexible DRM on purchases and restricting the downloads to a single, overpriced, piece of hardware.

Meanwhile, pirates get a pre-release DVD rip of the movie out there for free. That’s the problem. Attack the demand for pirated movies, on the customer’s terms, and it will cease to be an issue.

Cranky says:

Owned by Sony

Sony’s objective isn’t for you to ‘own’ their products, it is for THEM to own YOU once you give them some money. Nothing you purchase from them is truly yours, they continue to own it according to them (have a read through the 2005 rootkit scandal testimony). They care nothing for consumer choice unless the consumer’s choice is Sony…or something that Sony has a vested interest in, like the vile Securom v7 DRM they’ve snuck onto PCs worldwide via video games. Securom makes Starforce look like a misbehaved child. Disabled optical drives anyone? Chronic compatiblity issues? Datamining? Computer scannning? Shut down antivirus? No removal utility? Encrypted error reports? Stealth updates? Ring0 access? All done without your consent or control when you installed a fucking video game? Any takers?

With all the nasty crap they’ve pulled w/DRM in music CDs, USB drives, DVD players, and computer games, why on EARTH does anyone continue to trust them at all?

dave says:

Big Media WANTS fragmentation

They don’t want anybody except themselves in control of distribution. They completely control the movie theatre chains and DVD sales/rental (and believe me they are concerned at Walmart’s market share in sales). They will do everything they can to prevent anyone from becoming the iTMS of movies. Consumers can all go to hell before they’ll let that happen.

Allen Martin says:

all things are proprietary1

Blu ray…hmmm started out sony prop…now mainstream..must have worked, huh?

HDMI interface…started out sony mainstream..must have worked, huh?

The freaking Sony Walkman was proprietary and well merchandised by sony before becoming mainstream as a “personal cassette player”.

If there was no innovation, there would be no advancement. Many individuals and companies have both succeeded and failed at many attempts to mainstream their ideas. that is capitalism. That is progress. If you dont think it is a good idea, dont participate and if the massess agree, it will go the way of the HDDVD.

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