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April 28, 2007

No iTunes Subscription Model for Music, but What about Videos?

Categories Apple Emerging Ideas TV iTunes 

Recently Steve Jobs has again denied the possibility of a subscription model for music on iTunes, but conspicuously made no mention about a subscription model for videos.  "People want to own their music," he said.  What he means by this is that while many music subscriptions offer unlimited downloads, the catch is that when you end your subscription all the music you downloaded becomes unplayable.  So essentially, customers of these plans are just renting music.  While the concept of renting music may be unpopular, renting videos is something that everyone does.  And Jobs made no mention about the possibility of a subscription-based model for iTunes videos that would essentially allow people to rent videos.  A subscription plan for iTunes videos could be widely popular; even with the same people who would never want to rent music.  I've written about the need for an iTunes subscription plan for videos here and here, and now that the iTV is out I still maintain that a subscription plan for videos is inevitable.

Part of the reason that I think a subscription model for videos would be popular is because of the file sizes of videos.  Video files are obviously a lot bigger than music files, so saving, for instance, an entire season of "The Daily Show" could be really problematic and inconvenient for a lot of people.  And furthermore, just because people want to watch a TV show or movie on their computer doesn't mean they want to own it forever. 

How could it work?

I think ideally an iTunes video subscription might work similarly to NetFlix.  ITunes would offer different priced plans based on how many videos the customer could have downloaded at a time, for instance $10/month for 3 videos out at a time.  This would allow a customer to download any 3 videos, and when the customer was finished watching one video, he could just delete it and download something new.  And ideally, the plan would allow the customer to do this as many times per month as they wanted, so that customers could easily download 10 or 20 videos in a given month even if they were only able to have 3 out at a time.

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