Monday, March 03, 2008

Paying for Digital Download of TV Shows, Part 1

I am looking at a few TV shows online that I want to watch such as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Burn Notice, Dirty Sexy Money and season 2 of Heroes and Dexter. These are currently running or have just completed their run in the states but are only few episodes into their run here in Australia. One of my many deeply seeded problems is that once I’ve missed an episode, which I have on all the above, I won’t watch any more till I can fill in that hole. The current over arcing problem I have having which is the genesis of this long winded rant is that there are quite a number of episodes of these shows available as digital downloads on Amazon and the iTunes store for $1.99 USD.

One problem I have with buying the digital downloads is that once I buy something I am an anal retentive pack rat that must collect and horde all my treasures. With digital downloads I don’t have anything physical to clasp my frequently washed yet still grubby little hands onto. I need something to put on a shelf and display for all to see and admire.

“Yes! Look in wonder at my collection, admire my Lord of the Ring extended editions and bask in the glory of my William Gibson documentary.”

I have sort of gotten over that issue with regard to buying unabridged audio books from I have acknowledged the glory of being able to sort through the book covers in iTunes. I also know that if something happens to my computer I can download the lost files again from Audible with no hassle. Something happening like say just for an example just off the top of my head: I have them all on my work computer and the company suddenly goes under and I don’t get a chance to copy them all off my hard drive; I won’t be screwed. For that peace of mind I am somewhat willing to jump through the hoops they make me, a legitimate customer, go through when dealing with the Digital Rights Management also known as DRM. I’m pretty sure iTunes doesn’t offer you the ability to re-download a file you may have lost and although I haven’t checked into Amazon’s policy in that regard I’m going to bet it’s similarly a one shot download deal. This is also one of the reasons I prefer to buy a music CD and rip it into iTunes rather than buy it from the iTunes store. Though, I hear that the RIAA’s new hard line claims that is actually stealing, but lets not digress this rant into that ramble.

I don’t know if I can make the digital leap with television and movies yet. With audio books I know I have access to them in all the places where I want to hear them. I copy them to my iPod which I can listen to via headphones or through the car’s stereo system. Copying them from computer to computer is easy; in contrast with anything else iTunes / iPod related where it’s a pain in the ass. With a DVD I know I can just pop it into any player; be it an actual player in the living room attached to the TV, built into the computer, or even built into the latest console gaming system (thought lets not get me started again on region coding). I also get cool extras like commentaries and deleted scenes with the DVD collections.

The main point of all that can be boiled down to the increased chance of failure the phrase “in my computer room on a monitor” has when added to the question “Hey baby, wanna come back to my place and cuddle up in front of the latest Dexter episodes?”

Now the question I am asking myself is this: am looking at this all wrong? Should I just view the $1.99 like the fee for renting a movie or even seeing it in the theatre? Of those TV shows mentioned above, several of them are shows I know I’ll only watch once. If I was watching them as they aired during their regular season I wouldn’t even be thinking twice about them. So what if I spend two bucks to catch up with season two of Heroes. And lets say I do delete the files in a week, a month, or when I’m upgrading computers should I care? It’s only 2 bucks an episode to watch them NOW and I can still buy the damn DVD box set later when it comes out. Though looking at the prices for Dexter’s first season on Amazon: 12 episodes that would be $24 dollars for all the downloaded episodes versus the discounted price of $28 dollars for the boxed DVD set. I do see there is an option for $19 dollars to download the entire season, but this doesn’t really count for the stuff I am talking about since most of their seasons aren’t complete yet. Amazon doesn't appear to offer digital downloads of shows whose DVD boxed sets aren't available yet or at least not for Burn Notice. iTune's "buy all episodes" button is the same price as buying all the episodes individually for the incomplete 7 episode season of Terminator but does have a discounted $19.95 "Buy Season" button for all 12 episodes of Burn Notice.

I should throw in a couple of other issue such as living in a third world internet country known as Australia where there is no such think as an unlimited internet plan. You either pay out the nose for going over your download limit or they knock your internet speed down to dial-up speed for the rest of the month. Let’s also not forget the issue of storage space. These files tend to eat up hard drive space pretty quickly and become more and more unwieldy to try and transfer from computer to computer where DVDs sit nicely on the shelf and look pretty.


Andrew said...

Hey at least you *can* buy the stuff. Us poor saps with Australian cards can't do squat on the US stores, and the fancy online movie / tv downloads don't extend outside the US borders.

It's no surprise that Australia is rumored to have the highest torrent download rates per capita (we may not have unlimited internet but 80gb/month equals a lot of TV) :)

Joseph B. Hewitt IV said...

I have yet to try to download a show from the U.S. iTunes but I have been able to buy and download other things have weren't available on the Australian iTunes. What I am going to look into is what I can get from Bigbond that doesn't count against my bandwidth. Actually first thing I need to do is figure out why my internet connectivity drops connection every five minutes.

I had read somewhere that the UK had the highest torrent download rate of TV shows (don't know if 'per capita' fit into that equation or not, or let alone how accurate it was) except for the first season of Battlestar Galactica where the U.S. torrents blew those numbers out of the water. The reasoning of course was that the UK got season one first.

Seriously though, I heard two girls talk about some TV show a few years ago in the Queens Street Mall. One of them said she hadn't downloaded the latest two episodes yet. These were normal girls and there was no talk of 'my boyfriend hasn't downloaded' she said 'SHE' hadn't downloaded them. THAT is how far its dug its way into pop-culture. Normal 20-something-ish girls are doing it!

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