Earlier this week Jim beat me to a rant about the many things CBS is doing wrong with its video storefront. Charging $1.99 for an episode of Survivor that expire in 24 hours is ludicrous. It’s such a bad idea that there’s a special room reserved for CBS in the Medialoper Hall of Shame.
Who in their right mind would actually pay to download a video file with those restrictions? Now that CBS is talking to Apple about selling programming on iTunes we’ll probably never know.
It would be tempting to assume that CBS just couldn’t get it’s act together while NBC and ABC saw the opportunity to score big with iTunes. However, on further investigation this is more than just a story about a major network making some obvious screw-ups while trying to figure out how best to sell its programming in the new media-everywhere era.
This is really about CBS attempting to resist Apples FairPlay Digital Rights Management (DRM) while maintaining maximum control over the network’s content. It’s also about a major network realizing it was fighting a loosing battle by resisting iTunes.
Some major aspects of CBS’s recent video download experiments have been glossed over by media analysts. For one, “the experts” have failed to note that Survivor episodes have the same 24 expiration on Google Video (look closely and you’ll see it’s $1.99 for “a day pass”). The content expiration is undoubtedly enforced through Microsoft DRM, which means that CBS’s downloads will not play on iPods (or Mac’s, for that matter).
When you get right down to it, content creators have a choice. Maintain maximum control over their content by using Microsoft DRM, or give up some of that control and sell their content in a format that plays on the most popular portable media device on the planet.
Alternately, content providers could sell content that has absolutely no DRM protection through other venues, but it’s unlikely that we’ll see major media companies doing that any time soon.
To recap for those who seem to be missing the big picture:
- Google: DRM = Windows only – no iPod support
- CBS Store: DRM = Windows only – no iPod support
- iTunes: DRM = Windows/Mac – iPod only (but there are way more iPods than anything else)