In the latest twist on the road to anything, anytime, anywhere, CBS has decided to sell downloads of Survivor directly from its online store rather than going through iTunes or some other middleman. This is the first time one of the major networks is doing this, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Good.
The network is calling it an “experiment,” and saying that it doesn’t mean that they won’t be going through iTunes for other shows in the future. Also good: one wonders how long the exclusive deals like what NBC & ABC have with iTunes should and will last (though with Steve Jobs becoming a huge stakeholder in Disney, it’s not likely that AOL or Google will be getting Lost any time soon), or whether or not a more traditional model of the networks making the videos available (for a price) for any outlet willing to host them will end up taking hold.
However, there is one caveat on all this. A big enough issue toss the whole experiment right off of the island: the downloads will “expire” 24 hours after purchase. Sigh. Even if this works on the technological tip, and people don’t immediately figure out how to hack it, it still never works as a long-term business strategy. It didn’t work for videos in the 80s; Divx in the 90s, and it probably won’t work for CBS now. (Or Napster, but that’s another post for another time.) And it taints the whole “eliminate the middleman” part of this story, because they aren’t offering the same service as iTunes or AOL.
Here’s the thing: price it low enough so I want to purchase it. And let me play it when I want to play it on whatever device I choose. And let me copy it forward to play on my other media.