New York Times writer can’t think different: ‘video iPod may not be ready for prime time’

“At first blush, the video iPod is not about to revolutionize Hollywood in the way the iPod revolutionized music,” Richard Siklos writes for The New York Times. “Why? Two reasons. One is that studios are not rushing to make their most popular movies and shows available for the video iPod (note that only Disney shared the stage with Mr. Jobs last week, and the primary motive may have been its desire to repair relations with Pixar). Perhaps even more important, mobile gadgets with access to everything that is already on television are on the way.”

“Just last week, EchoStar, the satellite broadcaster, released one such device, a portable personal video recorder called PocketDISH; it got much less notice than the video iPod got. Think of PocketDISH essentially as a pocket-sized TiVo – a small computer that lets you record television shows onto a hard drive with the click of a button – with a screen for watching what you’ve recorded. And like TiVo and its clones, it can record any program you can watch on a full-sized TV at home, and then allow you to fast-forward through the ads when you view it,” Siklos writes. “Of course, probably the biggest factor working against the instant success of a video iPod is that the video world has yet to experience the copyright-infringement meltdown that the music industry did a year or two ago, when millions of people were swapping songs free rather than buying CD’s in stores.”

Siklos writes, “There is no disputing the wisdom in that, or of Apple’s supremacy over just about any rival these days in introducing a device using its marketing and design prowess and brand appeal. And there are chewy, unresolved legal questions raised by gadgets like the PocketDISH or Slingbox.”

Siklos writes, “Still, the video iPod only has it half right: if it took material from the television as readily as it did from the Internet, it could be a blockbuster. But then who would pay $1.99 to download an episode of “Lost” from iTunes if the iPod could also hook up to your television and record that same episode free? Unlike its musical forebear, the video iPod may not be ready for prime time.”

Full article here.

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By SteveJack
“Studios are not rushing to make their most popular movies and shows available for the video iPod,” Siklos writes. He forgot to add the word “yet.” Apple will sell millions upon millions of these iPods as music players this holiday season. And tens of millions of them by next spring. Tens of millions of units whose users have the capacity to seamlessly play video and buy content for $1.99 via Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Do the math indeed.

How long do you think an ad-based revenue model can last when everybody fast forwards through the ads that bring in the revenue? We hate TV ads as much as anybody and the TV executives just keep piling more and more ads on us as they struggle with increasingly fragmented viewership. (Obviously this website is ad-based, and the revenue from the ads allows us to keep this site running and free for whomever would like to visit. Thank you for patronizing our sponsors, without whom we would not exist.) Advertisers aren’t going to place ads on TV if viewers are just going to fast forward through them. They’ll stick to live events like sports, where enough of an audience feels the need to watch it live. But, how will shows like “Lost” that people can easily record and watch later – while skipping the ads – generate revenue to pay the writers, directors, actors, editors, crew, etc.?

Siklos can’t think outside of the idiot box he’s been watching all of his life. There is precious little content that needs to be watched live. TiVo owners already know. As people continue to move to systems and methods of watching video content that delivers only what they want to watch, without the ads that support that content, something’s got to give. You can’t make shows like “Lost” today without advertisers footing the bill. Once the advertisers leave, to give a very simplified example, shows like “Lost” will make money by charging $1.99 per episode. While it will struggle on for years, the era of “free” ad-supported TV, where viewers watch when the netowrks tell them to watch, is already over. As usual, the TV executives are the last to know.

Looking ahead, Apple’s probably thinking about a monthly charge to download whatever you want or some set maximum number of items that makes sense. It’ll cost around what you’re paying today for cable or satellite. Apple or somebody will figure out a way to deliver live events with quality and do so reliably and to large numbers of viewers. The first to drop dead will be the local TV affiliates, for which there are little use already today. All they have right now that’s “unique” are their local “news” and weather reports (which is why they constantly over-promote their news and why they already blow the local weather so far out of proportion with “breaking weather” cut-ins for sun showers seemingly hourly, doppler radar installations that can see the silverware on your kitchen table, etc.). Plus there are usually three or four or more competing local news outlets per market. Local advertisers, like national advertisers, will increasingly look elsewhere as their ad dollars achieve less and less. Other parts of the “TV business” will follow suit or change and adapt to serve new concepts.

The reason Apple’s iPod and iTunes is such a milestone, is that these iPods will be in millions of hands quite soon and iTunes already has tens of millions of registered users (complete with credit card info on file). People like Siklos who criticize the iPod+iTunes Store at this early juncture for video quality, content library, etc. and who are fixated on recording content when it’s broadcast, then scrubbing past the ads during playback really haven’t thought very far ahead. We could do that in the 1980’s with VCRs; it’s nothing new. iPod already plays content on screens other than and larger than its own. You don’t even need an iPod to buy and watch TV shows from Apples iTunes Store, you just need iTunes and a computer, which also can play content on screens other than and larger than its own. As bandwidth increases and content providers become more comfortable with Apple’s delivery, the quality of the video available for purchase from Apple’s iTunes Store will increase. What you see from Apple right now is a just a test. If you thought the iPod+iTunes changed the music business, you haven’t seen anything, yet. The iPod+iTunes is going to alter “TV” in ways as yet unimagined.

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.

Related articles:
Apple opens Pandora’s box for the media business, could have profound long-term consequences – October 17, 2005
Apple has the potential to change not just the audio industry, but the whole entertainment industry – October 17, 2005
Advertisers welcome Apple’s iTunes Store commerical-free content – October 17, 2005
Podfather: iPod porn is going to be huge – October 14, 2005
Forrester Research: Apple transformed music distribution, now it is doing the same for video – October 14, 2005
Get ready for the iPod video torrent search sites – October 13, 2005
Apple’s new iMac G5, iTunes 6, iPod video designed to bait Hollywood – October 13, 2005
Apple video iPod+iTunes could create mass audience for video on the go, despite studios’ misgivings – October 13, 2005
Using QuickTime Pro to create videos for playback in new Apple iPods – October 13, 2005
Analyst: Apple has just produced ‘the tipping point’ for entertainment content – October 13, 2005
Apple’s video play likely to unsettle movie, TV, advertising and retail markets for years to come – October 12, 2005


  1. MDN: “We hate TV ads as much as anybody…”

    Hmmmm….MDN, that thought does not seem to carry over to the overwhelming clutter of ads on your website.

    Isn´t it funny how one´s perspective changes when one is either on the receiving end of ads or the receiving end of the REVENUE from those ads.
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  2. Nobody wants to watch a 2hr movie on the move, indeed. But it’s not the point. Apple emphasize short programs like TV shows, Musical video clips etc. The iPod allows only 2 or three hours of battery charge for continuous video playing, and definition is not great. But it’s sufficient for short videos and, most importantly, the infrastructure will be ready and tested for the next step, Movies !

  3. a few weeks ago i PVR’ed an episode of “House” as my GF and i were going to be away that evening. before watching it i spent fifteen minutes editing out twenty minutes of commercials, leaving 40 minutes of actual show. that means a full third of every hour is pure bombardment of ads for Ford Explorer, Postaroo, Menard’s, several allergy and anti-depression medications, and about a zillion other things i’ll never buy.

    would i have dropped two bucks to download the show ad-free? you betcha.

    MDN: “had,” as in: “as if these ANALysts ‘had’ any clue as to what they’re talking about”

  4. As an added extra (at no extra cost) video is a way cool addition but viewing a movie is another thing all together.

    So video on an ipod may be a real killer but on a screen that small? I just hope that somewhere down the line Steve Jobs has an ipod planned with a screen maybe twice the size.

    OK, so now I’ve said it and I figure some extremist will now flame me. It’s just the size of the screen…

  5. dunno…..I don’t have the premium channels, so I miss out on things like “Deadwood” and “Huff” and “Six Feet Under.” I’ve heard they’re good, but I dunno because I never see them. I think I might be willing to pay $2.00 to get a crack at them. And there are certainly some episodes of South Park or Aqua Teen Hunger Force I’d buy at that price.

    But then, will Apple get the rights to that content? I don’t think I’d pay anything for regular episodic network television q.v. a show like “Lost”…..pfffft gimme a break. If the selection is good, it might work. If it’s just the same old crap that’s always on…..I think not.

  6. Erratum:

    Part of my post went missing:

    It should have read:

    Am I the only one saying this or is looking at a two hour movie on a two and a half inch screen a recipe for myopia some years down the line?

    As an added extra (at no extra cost) video is a way cool addition but viewing a movie is another thing all together.

    So video on an ipod may be a real killer but on a screen that small? I just hope that somewhere down the line Steve Jobs has an ipod planned with a screen maybe twice the size.

    OK, so now I’ve said it and I figure some extremist will now flame me. It’s just the size of the screen…

  7. A couple of thoughts.

    This is not a video iPod. It’s an iPod that happens to play video. Check out Apple’s marketing of it (I’m looking at a banner running right here on MDN). “Watch your music.” Face it, for now, it’s still about the music.

    In a way this is a brilliant move by Apple. Now that they have a device that plays video, they can start to form the alliances. Next year, maybe as soon as MWSF or probably later in the year, they’ll bring out the real iPod video with the iTunes movie store.

    Who wants to watch a 2 hour movie on the go? I’d love to, when I’m traveling. It would sure beat lugging the laptop everywhere. And if the rest of the time this same compact device plays my music, all the better.

    Count me in.

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