Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sideways. Streaming. Free. Legal. One catch.

On a summer day in the mid-nineties, my graduating class clustered around a hole in the ground, tossing in items that were personal but of little value. The hole was a time capsule, to be sealed up at the end of the day and to be opened in a hundred years. While everyone else threw in their student ID, my mother saw the future. "Throw in your Blockbuster card. In a hundred years, people will wonder what that company was."

I got a new card the next day and, over a decade later, and as of just yesterday, I am still using it. We've had TiVo, and Netflix, but the promise of online, instant content has not quite been met. If you are uncomfortable using Bit Torrent to download pirated films, there is no way to get films online for free. iTunes and Amazon Unbox are options if you are willing to pay, but Amazon Unbox also requires a TiVo.

However, now there might be Hulu. While Hulu is dominated by TV content, a couple of studies seem to be experimenting with a handful of full-length feature movies. For instance, Twentieth Century Fox has contributed five movies. At one end of the spectrum, they have Weekend at Bernies, at the other, the Oscar-winning Sideways, which you can watch below for free.

The catch? Advertising of course. As with every example I've posted, you must watch commercials, in this case, a trailer for the movie Vantage Point. After that point, there are no commercials and you can fast forward to any point in the movie, but "swipes" will pop up from the bottom of the screen while you are watching.

Perhaps Hulu will move to a dual model, where you can get ad-free content if you pay a subscription. After all, it's one thing for a swipe to pop up during a comedy, quite another during Gandhi. But I think most people will tolerate intrusive ads for the chance to watch most movies straight through for free, especially if the ad is for another movie I might be interested in watching. Would you?

1 comment:

CKL said...

One correction: Amazon Unbox does not require a TiVo; you can also download their crappy, DRM-crippled video player for Windows. I'm not saying it's any better, but you do have a choice. Scylla or Charybdis? :)

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