Slightly Better Than Sliced Bread

7.31.2011

This next one is one of the greatest technology concepts that is likely to disappear within a couple of years.  It's a company called Zediva and the whole idea is to stick a finger squarely into the eye of the movie industry.

THE CONCEPT: Zediva is an online, streaming move service.  It's basically a combination of Netflix and Redbox in that it has a pretty limited selection of new-release and popular movies, but does not require you to hang out in front of the grocery store late at night when you have a desire to watch a movie and you also don't have to return a disc.  You simply sign onto the Zediva website, pick your movie and it starts playing.  Once you start a movie, you can watch that movie as many times as you want over the next 14 days.  Rentals cost $2 apiece or a buck if you buy packs of movie credits ($10 for 10 credits).  Also, the new releases here are truly new releases, and not month the month old releases that you get on Redbox.

THE INNOVATION:  So why didn't somebody else do this first?  Many have tried, but the short answer is that the movie industry does not like making it this easy (and cheap) for consumers to watch new release movies.  They prefer that you have to work a lot harder and pay a lot more money to watch a movie that has just been released on DVD and so they have all sorts of rules in place that keep services like Netflix, Redbox, etc. from renting new releases until they have started to get a little stale (meaning, the DVD purchases have started to taper off at Walmart and Amazon).  In order to get around this little complication, Zediva basically gives the finger to the movie industry and has found a loophole in the rules.  Zediva actually goes to the local Walmart the day a DVD is released and buys a bunch of copies of the actual physical disc (I don't actually know where they buy them, but this is how I imagine it).  Next, they take those discs back to their secret lair which is basically a room full of thousands of DVD players all hooked into the Internet and trained monkeys (now I'm really taking some creative liberty, but, again, this is how it happens in my mind).  Now, when you sign into the website and "Rent" a movie, one of these trained monkeys (we'll call him Mr. Peepers) sees an image of the movie you wish to watch on a small screen in his cage.  Being the highly trained monkey that he is, Mr. Peepers knows that if he can successfully retrieve that movie, place it in one of the DVD players and press the play button, then he will be rewarded with a banana.  The next thing you know, the movie begins with DVD menu that you control, previews and all and Mr. Peepers is happily enjoying his banana and back to watching his advanced copy of "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and dreaming about the day when you will be the one retrieving/playing the DVDs for him.

THE CATCH:  Obviously the movie people aren't happy about this little arrangement, and are suing like mad to get it stopped, because, obviously, if something is easy, cheap and makes consumers happy, it must be illegal.  Nobody is quite sure if this approach will stand up to the convoluted copyright laws in place in the US right now, especially given that they were all written before the Internet or DVD players even existed and don't even begin to address this sort of technical setup.  But surely, if history is an indicator of where this is headed, some judge somewhere in the US will decide it's his place to create laws where none exist and protect the motion picture cartel by shutting Zediva down.  If that happens, and Zediva probably doesn't have the resources to take this to the Supreme Court, this awesome little wonder of human problem solving, loophole exploiting will cease to be.  Either way, I'm pretty sure this business model is only going to last a year or two anyway as the whole online movie thing evolves and eventually movie studios are going to figure out, just as the music industry did, that consumers will find a way to get the content.  It's just a matter of whether or not the industry will get a slice of the pie.

THE LIMITATIONS: The biggest things keeping Zediva from taking over the world today are 1) the movies are currently only playable on Adobe Flash enabled devices.  That basically limits it to desktop/laptop computers or Android OS powered devices (Yes, this really works on an Android phone...I've tried it myself on T-Mobile 3G).  If these guys could get an app out there for Roku, PS3, Wii, XBox, etc, it would explode.  They say on the website that they're working on it, but nothing yet.  2) It's still an invitation only service.  Since this whole operation is run by a couple of college drop-outs and a legion of trained monkeys, they can only add capacity as fast as they can make trips to Walmart to buy discs and cheap DVD players and get them all wired together.  That doesn't even take into account what is required to find qualified, upstanding monkeys who are looking for work and get them trained.  But, they are adding capacity and I just got my first batch of invitations this week.

HOW DO I SIGN UP: If you're looking for a great way to enjoy new release movies and you aren't willing/capable of the whole Redbox thing (my family is not able to return rentals, as evidenced by our vast collection of DVDs we've "purchased" from Redbox because we can't get them back, even after a month) and you're ok watching them on your computer or Android device, follow the link below and sign up.  Since it's a referal link, we both get free stuff if you do:

http://www.zediva.com/user/register/sNsMzzmWou

Only the first 10 people to use the link will get in.

1 comment:

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