In2TV + DRM = No Mac

by Erica Sadun

AOL's In2TV launched this week. It's a free classic TV video-on-demand service monetized by in-video advertising. Shows include Wonder Woman, Welcome Back Kotter, F-Troop and La Femme Nikita among others. Unsuprisingly, it does not do Mac. In2TV requires Windows-XP and Windows Media Player 10.

In2TV provides advertisers with compelling video inventory for instream broadband advertising as well as opportunities for sponsorships and accompanying banner ads. Video ads, 15-second and 30-second spots, will be limited to a total of 1-2 minutes within each 30-minute episode as compared to 8 minutes of advertising on broadcast television.

Is it me or does this model sound incredibly backward looking? Why not skip the DRM, skip the 15- and 30-second spots, skip the banner ads and release the shows direct to Bittorrent? Why not use video bugs (translucent on-screen watermarks) to promote the advertisers' brands? AOL could reach a broader audience, build a greater and more positive brand awareness, and generate a huge amount of goodwill.

AOL would win. Their advertisers would win. The viewer would win. And Mac users would not be left out in the cold. Could someone explain what am I missing here?


2006-03-18 20:32:40
It's no Mac and no Linux, no Solaris and no anything else that may appear one day. I am getting sick and tired of all these companies requiring Microsoft only technologies. I just don't get why companies want to limit their audience. Let them all go ahead and shoot themselves in the foot. Reminds me of the days that many sites did not work with Firefox. These days are almost over but how much money did these companies had to spend in order to retrofit their sites? Let them invest in MS technologies and then scramble to get out of the hole they dug themselves in.
2006-03-18 21:05:41
Dumb thought time: How did all of the microsoft Backers, the Linux backers, and everyone else feel about things when Quicktime was the choice and not WMP? What about now with the iPod? All of these companies need to get their collective heads out of their butts and start working on a solution that allows eveyrone to play, not just the most popular. It's just another reason to dislike DRM and not support their efforts.
2006-03-18 22:22:01
"... What am I missing here?"

Umm, bad television.

2006-03-19 01:35:58
what am I missing here?
If you want to sell advertisements you need to be able to tell people how many viewers you're getting to. Take magazines; publishers will take their circulation figures, multiply by some 'FOAF' factor (how many other people read my copy of, e.g., Make) then sell ads based on that figure. If you distribute media via bittorrent, it becomes harder to know how many people watched it.
mike A
2006-03-19 04:06:43
Re: W2ed

True, but the Quicktime movie format is an open one that's published on Apple's site. I don't know when it was made open like this, but WMV certainly is nothing like this.

2006-03-19 08:46:04
Who cares about AOL. When Apple starts its movie service, they will show once again how ease of use and a simple solution rules.

And some of you seem to be forgetting that iTunes works for the Mac and Windows. That's dang near everybody.

2006-03-19 08:58:54
To bad for AOL that they require Windows XP. I guess that means it won't work with Vista. ;-)
2006-03-19 13:41:56
Decisions like this are exactly the reason I no longer have AOL.

2006-03-19 15:15:45
That''s too bad, I'm a huge fan of La Femme Nikita, too. But I don't even OWN a windows computer any more... guess I'll just buy the DVDs, producing much more revenue for whoever owns the rights to Nikita... I feel so sorry for them, they're losing money... oh no they aren't. AOL is. Well, another jab in the wound, I suppose.
2006-03-20 06:52:12
"... What am I missing here?"

Umm, Greed ?

2006-03-20 07:49:43
Is Quicktime closed? Uhm, that would be a no. Is the iPod closed? No, it works with Mac, Windows and Linux and you can put Mp3s on it from wherever you get them.

As for AOL, you do remember what the original real-world acronym was, right? Looks like it's still true. :o

2007-05-13 12:08:17
I'm not sure about the availability of quicktime format specifications, and whether they include codec specifics, and fairplay (apple's drm), but as far as I know I can't compile my own quicktime build. It wouldn't even make sense in the case of fairplay-supporting quicktime, because we could just disable the locks. Also, I've never found quicktime viable (huh? pay to view in fullscreen?), and I've always just ignored .mov files.

Anyway, I suspect content distribution will end up going in one of two directions, or maybe different vendors going in each direction or both. One way is going off the deep end with product placement and other impossible-to-remove adverts, like some shows, especially Smallville, are already doing to an astonishing degree. The other is to encase the entire distribution system in hardware DRM that's machine-specific, or more accurately chip-specific, rather than being operating system specific. Obviously there would still be a camera-pointed-at-screen analog loop, but the freedom to copy that we currently enjoy is largely based on processing direct feeds, not analog recordings.

When I recently bought a laptop from Dell, I had an option to pay an extra $700 for a blu-ray read/writing drive and a video card with an HDCP (hi-def content protection) chip. I immediately envisioned a time when I'd find myself needing the chip to view the latest DRM-protected content from a corporate site, which could probably be hacked to be "playable" (fed to the GPU) under any software platform, but would only be subject to actual decoding by the chip. I opted against it, deciding to put away my crystal ball and save my money, but I do suspect that the scenario will occur in the not-too-distant future.