Video on Demand from Apple and Sony Not Quite There Yet

Over the past couple of weeks, my family and I had the opportunity to check out the video on demand services from Apple and Sony. We found the services to be easy to use and competitively priced, but there are still a few kinks to work out in the business models.

Apple TV vs. Sony PS3

Let’s start with the Apple service.  We have an Apple TV (we bought ours for $199), which is a device that hooks up to your TV and connects via wireless to your Macintosh computer.  Using the Apple TV, we can stream photos, music and podcasts to our big screen TV.  Perhaps most fun of all, Apple TV has a custom interface for surfing YouTube!  Surfing YouTube as a family, on the big screen, from the comfort of my couch, is wonderful.  And now, we can rent or purchase movies from Apple.

The Sony service is available on the PS3.  I love our PS3 because I absolutely love Blu-ray.  The Sony service has a good selection of movies, although you’d think that a company like Sony would have a much bigger selection than Apple because it is in the entertainment business, but what do I know about these things.

My comparison of the services:

  • Both have a reasonably wide selection of movies in both standard and HD.  Sony, of course, has Blu-Ray offerings, which is fabulous.
  • On both sides, it’s $3.99 to rent a movie, $4.99 for the HD version — for new releases.  It’s less expensive for older titles and shorter, children’s movies.  It seems to be $9.99 to purchase a movie.
  • We rented “Bucket List” (because it’s kid-friendly) in HD via the Apple TV.  We rented “The Tigger Movie” in standard definition on the PS3 because CJ insisted it was his turn to pick a movie.  It took an astonishingly fast 20 minutes to download both movies (less for the Tigger movie).  The picture quality was great, no glitches, great sound, even for the Tigger movie.
  • Apple has a much better user interface, big surprise.  It’s hard to get to the Sony store, and it’s not clear which titles are available in HD unless you navigate to the HD menu.
  • On the Apple TV, you have 30 days to watch the movie, and once you start, you have 24 hours to finish watching.  On the PS3, you have 15 days to watch a movie.

The Downsides to Video on Demand

Okay, so video on demand, for less than $5, is fabulous.  But there are some drawbacks.

  • CJ wanted to watch The Tigger movie again, as kids are wont to do.  We tried to watch the movie a second time within the 24 hour timeframe but we ran out of time.  For kid movies, rentals are the way to go because we can watch a movie several times before returning it.
  • We thought about purchasing The Tigger movie after watching it, but didn’t want to pay the full purchase price, after having rented it.  It would be great if the companies would give me a credit for my rental.  I’m dreaming, I know, but a girl can hope, right?
  • For a mom with a young kid, 24 hours is sometimes not enough to watch a full-length movie.  It took us 3 days to watch Casino Royale a couple of months ago.
  • I love the extras available on DVD and at this point, you can’t get them on the downloads, whether you purchase or rent.

BTW, the Apple site has tons of great information on the Apple TV and the video of demand service, while the Sony site had nothing that I could easily find. So, Sony, if you want to market this new service, make it easy to get information on your site!  Even the news section of the PlayStation site had nothing on the video on demand service; a search on the overall Sony site was fruitless, as well.  Egads, another terrible site search!

Will I use these new services?  Absolutely, particularly on rainy or snowy days, or when I’m just too lazy to go out.  But for movies I want to watch a few times, I’m still headed to my local video store.