Brad Feld

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CinemaNow Is Outstanding

Mar 26, 2006
Category Books

They joy of having an “IT guy” (aka Ross) around is that he willingly expresses his opinion whenever given the chance.  Since he plays around with even more stuff than I do, one of the ways I learn to is listen to him rant and rave about things he’s played with.  A few weeks ago, it was his lousy experience with the iTunes Music Store for video.  That post generated some useful comments – especially around DRM.  Ross fired off another rant – this time a positive one about his experience with CinemaNow – along with a general response to the comments on the previous post.  Again – I’ve lightly edited to fix spelling and grammar, but left the IT guy essence intact.  Ross follows…

First, I’ll respond to some of the comments on why I support DRM. Let me be clear, I support DRM in concept – that concept being that you should be able to purchase something and use it anywhere you want. Your iPod, your smartphone, your TV, your computer, whatever. You should not be able to share that file with anyone else, period. That’s how DRM should work, and if it did work that way no one would really have any reason to complain. However, DRM does not work that way, which is why all current DRM technologies are flawed. Fred Wilson put it well saying that it’s all about “dial tone” – you pay your monthly fee to get your pipe of media and that’s it. The rest should be transparent.

The other comments that stuck with me were about the about the quality of music on iTunes and that while I’m savvy enough to have a serious media room setup that I didn’t know going in that this would suck. On the first point let me clarify that I think the quality of music purchased through iTunes is excellent. It could be better, but it is good enough for my iPod and good enough for most people’s uses. What I mean by good enough is that most consumers will notice zero difference between an iTunes file and a ripped MP3. Most consumers just don’t care and they don’t have the ears that I have (and I was a music major in college so I have pretty tough ears.)  Regarding knowing going in that this would suck – I should have known.  I figured it would, but I fell victim to a sudden bout of optimism and I wanted to go into it without any preconceived notions.

Ok – enough old stuff – let’s get to my point for this week. Yesterday Melanie and I were out of movies. We’d sent back our Netflix movies earlier in the week and were expecting more to show up on Saturday. For the first time Netflix failed us and we had nothing new to watch. Being lazy (c’mon – give me a break – I’m an IT guy) I didn’t want to drive to Blockbuster so this gave me the perfect opportunity to try out CinemaNow to watch a movie. While Melanie was, uh, less than thrilled about this idea (after our iTunes mess) but she agreed to give it a try. I ran to my PC and started setting up a new account.

Setting up a new account was.  Within two minutes I was ready to purchase a movie. We started looking through them and found the first problem, a very limited selection. We eventually settled on Junebug (which was not a comedy despite the claim that it was – but it was very good.) I proceeded to purchase it ($3.99 seemed steep to me) and download it. My home theater is built around a HP z545 Media Center PC connected to my HD projector (720p) and then connected to my high end Onkyo receiver for 7.1 surround sound. This was going to be the real test – could we watch a movie, downloaded over the net on this system, and have it look great?

After purchasing the movie it started to download. After this began I got a count down timer letting me know that the movie would be ready to watch in 30 seconds.  That’s smart – progressive downloading – we weren’t expecting that – so we let it download the entire movie while we got ready.

Ok, so now it’s time to watch. It’s downloaded, I’m ready to go, Melanie’s ready (as are our dogs) so let’s hit play. Guess what – it didn’t play! It needs to download some security update for Windows Media Player. I’m thinking, “damn it, not this again!” 10 seconds later the download is done and it’s starting to play. Not only does it work, but it looks outstanding – very close to DVD quality.  During the entire movie I didn’t see a single compression artifact, the video didn’t skip, and the sound was perfect (but it was NOT Dolby Digital 5.1 – something had to fall short.)

Overall, I was delighted.  CinemaNow has this figured out and knows how to deliver something of real value to the consumer – congrats guys, you’ve won a customer. Now, get the price down or offer an unlimited or capped subscription and I’m 100% there and dropping Netflix. Oh, and add some more movies while you’re at it (studios listen up, this is how consumers will get movies in the future.)