Netflix and the Video Download Jones

netflixOm Malik (who has now gone 508 consecutive days without linking to Newsome.Org) has an article today about Netflix and its continuing jones to get into the video download game. Recall that Netflix thought it had a deal working with TIVO for some sort of video download service, but the movie studio cartel put an end to those plans.

Now there’s evidence that Netflix remains interested in developing some sort of video download service. Naill Kennedy, while taking a break from trying to solve my Technorati 42 and only 42 links problem, found some job postings where Netflix is looking for people for jobs that sound related to the serving, downloading and playing of video content.

I have said many times that I think selling downloadable video for viewing on computers and iPods and whatnot is the biggest much ado about nothing since Y2K. It is a supply in search of a demand. But I have also said that I use and love Netflix. So what about this potential pairing of a great thing (Netflix) and a generally stupid thing (downloadable videos)?

First of all, of the many things wrong with the whole downloadable video concept, the thing that is most wrong is that it generally involves: (a) reruns of free and/or boring content, (b) being sold, (c) to be downloaded and somehow moved onto some other device, (d) where it will be viewed in a lesser format on a tiny screen.

But that may not be true in the case of Netflix’s proposed service. Perhaps Netflix is trying to use the internet as merely a cheaper distribution method. Perhaps Netflix wants to give people the option of downloading the videos they currently get in the mail, not to some tiny little iPod, but to their video recorders to be viewed on their TVs. Here’s what has to happen for that to work:

1) Make it cost no more than Netflix customers currently pay. It’s a distribution method only. If it’s cheaper for Netflix, good for them- we want them to stay in business. But few will pay more for something that is, at best, only marginally more convenient.

2) Make it work seamlessly with our current hardware, or at least with cheap new hardware we can rent or purchase. I watch videos on my HDTV. Whether they get there via mailed DVDs or downloaded files makes no material difference to me.

3) Make it seem instantaneous. It takes a long time to download an entire movie. So let us order them today via a screen that looks and feels like (or perhaps is) the current Netflix website, have them downloaded overnight and available tomorrow.

4) Don’t clog up our broadband connections. That’s why you have to have the downloads done late at night.

5) Permit no stupid DRM limitations. One of the problems with Movielink is that you only have a short period to watch the movie. We don’t want to give up the flexibility we have with mailed DVDs. So keep the rules the same.

If all of this happens, I would absolutely consider letting Netflix distribute my movies to me over the net. This is nothing like the $1.99 Lost rerun on a tiny screen. It’s the same thing I have now, only hopefully a little cheaper for Netflix.

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