Same-day Movie Downloads: Good News for ISPs?


Broadband service providers looking for ways to upsell higher-speed (more expensive) connections now have the perfect come-on: same-day downloads on Apple’s iTunes store from most of the major Hollywood studios.

While the news doesn’t cover rentals, it’s good enough. Others, like VUDU, are already offering similar same-day download services. Given its history, the odds of Apple replicating the success it’s had with music in the movie download business are pretty high. The near ubiquity of its iTunes software and easy download process render it a good candidate for making a habit out of downloading movies. There is, of course, one problem when buying and download movies online: It takes forever.

Unlike music singles or even television shows, movies are long, with an average two-hour movie coming in at around 1.5 gigabytes. For broadband subscribers that average around 3 megabits per second, downloading a movie can seriously test one’s patience.

But a faster connection can make downloading easy. I have a nifty Covad ADSL2 Plus connection at home and more often than not, I get around 8 Mbps downstream speeds — good enough to download movies from the Apple store at an acceptable rate.

As a result, I end up buying at least one movie a week. On other download services like Jaman, I end up downloading (mostly to rent) at least two movies a month. If I had a pokey 1-megabit connection, there’s a very good chance I wouldn’t be downloading movies as often.

With growth slowing down, the broadband service providers, as noted earlier, are desperate to goose up their broadband revenues. Apple movie downloads could be the app that makes spending more to upgrade to higher-speed tiers a palatable option for Internet users.

I hope BSPs use this opportunity to push all non-legit online download services. Sure, there are some carriers who will whine, and will avoid raising the speeds because this might cut into their VOD sales, but in the end, the money they make from selling more bandwidth will make up for that hit.



As a movie rental store owner I obviously think this is a terrible idea. There are now so many challenges facing my industry I would hate to see movies released online the same day as the street date I think that would be a sure killer for the video store.

Bill Watt

Ideally I’d like to download so I can use the movie on the go. This is the biggest limitation on the Netflix ondemand solution.

But I also wanted to say that the VOD providers need to be more competitive. Comcast in my area is now renting me TV shows for the same price I can buy them on iTunes (yes, these are NBC shows so I can no longer get them on iTunes so I think this may more corectly be an issue with NBC). If VOD get more competitive with their own offerings plus enable higher transfer speeds they’ll get the best of both opportunities for making money.

Om Malik

@ Michael Katcher

Actually a typical download of a movies takes between 25-to-40 minutes even on my connection, because of the limitations on the server side and network congestion. 12 Mbps is more theoretical speed. just like 768 kbps is theoretical speed. one of the main reasons why broadband service providers say: up to X Mbps.

Michael Katcher

Maybe I’m crazy but isn’t your above example (downloading a 1.5GB movie at 3mbps) equal a 8 minute and 20 second download for an entire full lgenth movie? That’s hardly “testing one’s patience”. I do agree with you in theory though, given that my crappy Time Warner Cable connection in NYC gets a couple hundred kilobytes per second at best.


I think I’m with Valleygrunt on this one. I don’t think ISPs will be too happy if they are carrying massive video traffic for the extra relative pittance they are charging for “Premium” broadband. Here we’re either looking at ISPs forcing some revenue share with Apple (good luck with that), the decline of Net Neutrality, or I guess… metered broadband.

Om Malik

@ Charbax

great idea in theory but my experience with progressive download has been a bit of a blah. I think download and playback is much better experience. Of course, one can just download now and watch later. you point is well taken.

Om Malik

@ Valleygrunt,

I think the move towards metered broadband is going to take sometime. Again, this will be a tactic to get people to pay more for higher speed, unlimited broadband, and basically red lining the broadband demographics along the lines of premium buyers and discounters.


2mbit/s download is more than enough to watch a movie in DVD quality instantly. Why download when you can progressively download, which is like streaming, only that the movie is stored while playing.

Mpeg4 simple profile or h264 encoding makes DVD quality possible from around 1.5mbit/s, most so called DVD rips on the Internet are even at lower bitrates, and those are at perfectly DVD quality like qualities.

The Archos 605 WiFi playsback DVD quality streamed from the Internet in Mpeg4, WMV, H264, Realvideo instatly at DVD quality as long as you have got at least 1.5mbit/s download bandwidth. The Archos 605 WiFi is $199, much better then the iPod Touch, that’s for sure. Also Archos is compatible with real DVD resolution playback unlike the iPod Touch which is below VGA resolution. And Archos supports all Internet codecs such as DivX, WMV, Realvideo, H264 and even DVD rips in Mpeg2 or .vob container (just simple copy and paste of ones Netflix movies onto the Archos up to 160GB of storage).


However, given that the biggest ISPs are also into digital tv, this could be a thorn in their side. Why use VOD/PPV and wait for the DVD to be in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart when you can just pull up your iTunes and get it then?

Hopefully, the ISPs are chatting it up with the studios to get this same privilege on their movie-rental services, as well. I’d rather rent the movie than buy a digital copy, anyways, but that’s me. Now, if I can buy the digital version for $20-25 and have a physical DVD shipped to my door to arrive later, THAT’S something. I get instant satisfaction AND a more permanent product.


Hmm, what about ISPs wanting to provide metered bandwidth, a la Comcast?

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