A great read from Timothy Lee:
When I started reading CNet’s write-up of Roku’s new Netflix set-top box, I was beginning to think that the movie industry might finally be getting its act together. The price ($99) seemed reasonable, and the subscription rate (as little as $8.99/month) seemed about right. After years of missteps, I thought, maybe they were finally starting to figure out this Internet thing. Then I read this sentence: “Thanks to Hollywood’s byzantine licensing system, less than 10 percent of Netflix’s 100,000-plus library of titles is available for streaming to the Player.” Even worse, only two of Netflix’s 100 most popular movies are available for streaming. It’s almost as if Hollywood doesn’t want its customers’ business.
Apparently, three other manufacturers, including LG, are working on competing set-top boxes. They should be careful not to put all of their eggs in the Netflix basket, given that Netflix may or may not succeed in getting the studios to release more of their titles. And as we’ve said before, the last thing the video streaming market needs is yet another pointless standards battle. What’s needed is an open platform that supports free and paid downloads from a variety of different sources. Some of the Netflix boxes will reportedly include DVD or Blu-Ray drives, which is a smart move. Device makers should also be exploring more open content-delivery options, either in conjunction with existing video sites like YouTube, or developing a new, open platform where anyone can share their videos. In the long run, a lot of video business models will likely involve giving away free content, and a company that provides the set-top boxes for delivering that free content is likely to make a bunch of money. That market will grow especially fast if Hollywood continues its campaign to make its content as difficult to purchase as possible.