Two models for on-demand download of TV shows: The iTunes Music Store vs. CBS on Demand

CBS is now offering Survivor episodes for download via their CBS on Demand site in an obvious move to capitalize for themselves the success of the iTunes Music Store’s (ITMS) offerings of downloadable TV shows. They’re even using the same price point, $1.99.

The main difference? The ITMS will sell you the show, while CBS will rent it to you. Same money, ostensibly same product (generally speaking) but the iTunes Music Store will outright sell it to you while CBS is renting to you for a period of up to, but not in excess of, the time period specified in the terms and conditions of the individual download. In the case of Survivor, that’s 24 hours from the time of the rental. Get busy and don’t get a chance to watch it until the next day? You may have wasted your two bucks. It also can’t be transferred to another device. It almost seems redundant to say it’s also Windows-only, because it relies on Windows Media Player’s DRM protection in order to work.

The ITMS, in contrast, also uses DRM to make sure that you can only play your videos on Apple’s video iPod and in iTunes, and to restrict the number of machines you can have the video stored on and still have it play. You also can’t (as far as I know) burn your iTunes videos to optical media, the way you can with your music. Past those restrictions, you own your video once you’ve bought it and can copy it to other machines (up to five). It doesn’t expire, and it works on both Macs and Windows (thanks to iTunes being available on both platforms.)

Which is better? I’m sure that the CBS model made CBS very happy, as it allows CBS to strictly control its own content. However, I believe that in the long run, the consumer’s choice will be the ITMS model (or another model that’s even freer in allowing choices for the end-user.) For myself, I’d love to have an even more free range of choices on how I can handle the video content I’d download from the ITMS, but given the choice between only those two models, I’ll take Apple’s way over CBS.

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