The Xbox Zune marketplace opened here in Finland as well. This means that for the first time we have a VOD service that is 1) As easy to use as The Pirate Bay 2) Offers instant viewing 3) In good quality and 4) Is almost reasonably priced. The price being “almost” since it depends on the film, if you watch HD or SD and where you buy your Microsoft points from. But for example Babylon 5: The Lost Tales would cost you some 2-3e, while a current blockbuster in HD would be 4-5e.
But because the studios are still hell-bent on committing a slow suicide there are two major problems. First is the selection – it’s small, ridiculously small. There are fewer films on offer than there are DVDs on my bookshelf. But this should be only temporary. The second problem is that to watch the HD videos you need a HDCP enable tv that is connected to your xbox trough hdmi. This means that if they want me to pay the 1,50e extra for watching fiolms in glorious Full HD I need to buy a new tv AND a new Xbox (I’ve got one of the older models without hdmi).
This copy protection bullshit is absolutely ridiculous. HD is still in adoption phase, it’s not mainstream. And yet the studios are trying to slow down the adoption by building artificial barriers of entry. The second is that the studios need to sell the HD to get the price of films back up. The price of DVDs has dropped like a rock – the old bargain price of 9.99e is the new norm with films coming down to 3-7e in a month. Still every dvd produced costs, the printing fees, copyright fees & rating fees tend to stay the same even when the selling price goes down. And it’s the part that goes to the filmmakers that gets cut. And if that’s the price of a physical disc, why pay more for a download? Yet the price of online VOD is kept artificially high. HD streaming has the promise to offer the extra value and get some people to pay more. So slowing down the the adoption of HD is just plain stupid.
However, even though most people won’t be able to watch the HD streams in the next few years, the Zune marketplace is still the best VOD service available in Finland right now. And it’s good enough to have the potential to reach critical mass and finally bring film rentals online.