Apple has gained an enormous amount of popularity for it’s iPod, Apple’s version of the MP3 player. It’s success has boosted Apple sales by large numbers. Each version has been a relative improvement or is socially appealing enough to become very popular- The iPod Mini and iPod Shuffle being some of the more recent examples when it comes to music. Color screens, improved click wheels and more space crammed into a small case comes with each new improvement.
It comes as little surprise that Apple has ventured into the video market with the latest version of their iPod. Not only can you store a large number of songs on the hard drive, you can now download music videos and television episodes to the latest versions of iPods, which can be purchased through iTunes at a relatively cheap price of $1.99 per episode, in line with their $.99 per song or $9.99 per album.
But this is not the first time that television has ventured to a new medium: the Internet. In the past year, more and more websites are placing pilot episodes, teasers and other extras on their official web pages. Just this last month, Yahoo allowed users to watch the entire first episode of the WB’s new show, Supernatural, online, the day before it aired on regular television. The SciFi channel has done similar forays, offering the first episode of their own hit show, Battlestar Galactica online through their website. Recently, they had also placed the season finale online as the second season aired.
SciFi has done more than just place episodes online. SciFi became one of the first websites to offer downloadable commentary tracks for each episode as it came out from their main website- so that the viewers could watch along. In addition, SciFi has also placed a number of behind the scenes features to view online. Other shows have popped up online, with preview clips from Smallville appearing on Filmforce.net, among others. Television is starting to make an evolutionary jump to the internet.
Why the move? Most likely the sheer number of people who use the Internet, and given the advances in connection speeds since the mid-90s, people are able to download videos and music faster than ever before. This has caused some problems legally- especially when the BBC and Sky-One in England aired the new Dr. Who series and new Battlestar Galactica series before they hit the airwaves in the US. (Or not at all in the case of Dr. Who.) The numbers of illegal downloads of these programs skyrocketed, and for the second season of Battlestar Galactica, it was the US who got to watch the new episodes first. It would also seem that television executives, faced with the capabilities of the internet nowadays, are starting to see this as an opportunity, not as a problem, as is what Apple did with iTunes, which revolutionized online music sales, which have recently surpassed 500 million.
The next question is: How is this going to affect the television market? Already, people are able to download episodes online, which can affect both the ratings of a television show and it’s eventual release on to DVD. When programs begin offering DVD material on their own websites, this is undoubtedly going to affect DVD sales of a given program. Producers are going to have to find new features to place on DVD sets, and to be selective with what material is released online, while still using features and behind the scenes videos to generate interest for the show, without compromising the show’s ratings or profits.
As Apple has showed that downloading music can be profitable, its opening one market that could very well lead to the end of another: the DVD. At the current prices, one can buy the entire 1st Season of LOST from Apple iTunes for approximately $35, which is far under the DVD boxed set that’s available in stores. (Apple also sells episodes of the show Desperate Housewifes). Not only that, one it’s possible to download the episodes right after the show airs on television- which can also bring in new profits for studios right away.
So, where is TV going? Most likely, the Internet, through new downloading methods and systems. However, I would predict that the DVD sets will be around for a while yet- Some of us don’t have high speed internet.