The Movielink Compromise
Video on Demand (VOD) will one day be huge; heck, in an era where consumers don’t want to deal with TV commercials in their current format, there’s no reason why (from a consumer viewpoint) all content shouldn’t be ‘on-demand’.
Netflix, one of my favorite online/offline services, uses the USPS as its carrier to deliver thousands of MB of content (i.e., DVDs) in 1-3 days… assuming that it has copies of the title you want in stock. Pricing (for the standard plan) is $19.99/mth (+ tax). No late fees.
Movielink allows you to download an MPEG4 encoded DVD, roughly 700MB, which takes round 2.5hrs, depending on your Internet connection. Titles are always in stock. Pricing seems to average $3.99/title for the 170 titles available. No late fees, as the movie is only viewable for 24 hours from the first time you press the play button. Movies are viewed on your computer (rather than the TV, as is the case for Netflix and Blockbuster), unless you have a TV/video-out card and the requisite cabling.
Blockbuster allows you to walk away with a DVD (or VHS) of one of hundreds of movies at a local store in as much time as it takes you to drive there (and back + there and back to return it…), walk around trying to find the title and stand in line to checkout… that could range from 10 minutes to perhaps 45 minutes, depending on traffic (street and store). Titles are generally $3.99 for 2 to 5 day rentals. Late fees are stiff.
I find all of these options lacking in one way or another, but the increase in choice is greatly appreciated. Continual technology improvements (faster pipes, better comprehension, prioritized packets, etc) will eventually lead computer based on-demand services more attractive… provided the cable companies (ala TimeWarner’s iControl VOD system) don’t lock-up the market first.