Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Great Experiment

I am nothing if not malleable. Barely three weeks after complaining that I couldn't buy and download the TV shows I want to watch on my computer, I'm trying out the available options to see if I can live with them. So far, I've bought five episodes of Reaper from iTunes, and D and I have watched two of them. After this, it'll be House from Amazon Unbox.

So far, it's been pretty convenient, and I'm more than willing to pay $2 for an episode of a show I love--especially because it's a purchase, not a rental, and I get to keep the file for as long as I want. True, there's still crappy DRM attached, but it is the least of the associated evils.

Why don't I just use BitTorrent? Well, it's not terribly convenient, for one. I'm not a big fan of hunting down the right torrent and hoping that the download actually finishes. (Before you post your pollyanna comment: I'm glad it works for you. It rarely works for me.) Reliability is also a problem--especially at the moment, when we're dependent on hotel broadband that is usually sketchy and often throttles even streaming video traffic.

Another big issue is quality. True, iTunes video is nothing to write home about, and you can find HD content via torrents, but there's also a lot of low-quality, truncated, or simply mislabeled stuff out there. Given the choice between a data set that oscillates wildly between very good and very bad, and one that stays flatlined at pretty good, I'll take the linear fit, thank you.

Finally, I'm voting with my wallet. I have never been part of a Nielsen family (or even known any--have you?), and even when I'm using TiVo, I have very little confidence that the networks will pay any attention to my viewing habits, because they consider me a thief.* But if I'm actually giving them my money, and that money-giving is clearly attached to a particular program--well, I sincerely hope that even corporate executives are not that stupid. Besides, I can feel good that I'm directly contributing to the writers' residual payments, even if it's only a couple of pennies for each episode I buy.

* Yeah, treat your customers like criminals. That's a great business plan.


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