Earlier today I bought the Jon Stewart & Bill O’Reilly debate program that is airing tonight for $4.99. The catch with this is that it is only available online. This comes almost a year after comedian Louis CK released a comedy program in an online only format. The unique thing about this is that instead of using iTunes or other media stores that take a 30% cut of the sales the sellers are using regular payment companies like PayPal to accept a direct payment and then are offering their program without the digital rights management protections that iTunes usually uses. Therefore you are able to watch the content on nearly any device you own instead of being locked in to a particular ecosystem. These content producers are betting that by being more consumer friendly they can make more money than if they use the normal distribution channels.
The downside of this method is that it requires technical knowledge to get it working on a television. The Rumble website provides about six different ways to get the show on your TV. I tried to explain this to someone and already it sounded like too much work to them. It’s not a big deal for digital natives like me, but I wonder how many sales they lose to people that are not comfortable with technology and taking the extra steps to make this work.
Update: After watching the Rumble event on our TV from the iPad I can share the following frustrations. The first is that the stream from the event dropped out about five times. Instead of picking up from where it left off the stream would jump around until it got steady. This meant that we missed portions of the event. It also required me to manually pause and play the stream to get it going again, waiting did not cause it to continue and I did not see any indication of the connection quality between the iPad and the server on the iPad itself. I also had trouble with the website. Instead of taking me to the stream page after I logged in I had to login with my username and password on the website and then click a special link that was e-mailed to me. If I clicked the special link before logging in at the website I got an error with no direction on how to resolve it.
During the debate Stewart quipped to O’Reilly that “your audience is calling my audience to figure out how to download this thing” and I think that rung true. This even was fairly accessible to tech savvy people although it did have hiccups. I think that if the stream did not get disconnected then the experience would have qualified as flawless although a little bit of a pain to setup initially.