Downloading video over the web to watch at home is going to be the next big thing. We aren't talking about three minute music videos for your mobile phone or PSP, but actually for that television stuck in the corner of your living room. It's what Microsoft has been gearing up for with the Media Center and it's what Apple has, after the success of its iTunes Music Store, finally come around to seeing as the next big thing to offer. The race therefore is definitely on.
BiBC is the first company to officially start offering video downloads on the web via its website boxoffice365.com, but should we be excited? We turned up at the launch to find out.
So how has one small company of five men and a PR girl managed to beat all the big guys to the punch? The answer is in the offering. While the BiBC has attracted Universal Music, ITN, the Sanctuary and V2 to name a few, it has focused its efforts on music videos and documentaries rather than the latest full-length feature films and blockbusters. ITN is the complete archive although in the example we were shown it was a clip from the music arm (yes we didn't know they had a music arm either) and the company is hoping that it will convince film studio's like Universal Film that its efforts with its sister company Universal Music are something worth shouting about.
So the company has managed to get first to the market, but in our minds they are unlikely to stay on top. The marketing power of Napster, Apple, Netflix to name but a few is likely to beat them into submission before the BiBC even manage to get off the ground. It's a shame, but one that is so apparent merely because of the thinking behind the company. This really is a David and Goliath story where David is going to be squashed.
Don't get us wrong, we are all for the little guy, but the facts just don't add up for the BiBC to succeed, let along become a major player on its own.
With no major advertising push planned and a service that isn't full operational for another month despite a launch party and this is going to have to be a word of mouth kind of growth. The site's interface is woefully amateurish and unprepared to offer the plethora of catalogue any major player is going to launch with.
Talking to the managing director, Paul Hague, it's clear to see that the service was never meant to be provided direct to the customer. The plan, it seems was to offer the back end technology to the likes of Woolworth's or Tescos rather than do it themselves. It's something they probably should have stuck to rather than offering the front end they have.
So what do you get? Music videos will be priced between £1.50 and £3.00 depending on the artist and DVD chapters will start at £3.00. You will be able to try the tracks for free as a streamed video clip first. Lengths will vary although the BiBC will limit this to around a minute. Films themselves depending on your connection speed will take around 45 minutes to download on a 512Kbps broadband line.
Quality will be VHS quality, a far cry from DVD quality you can already get if you go to the local shop and HD picture quality you'll be getting in six months time.
Payment is offered via credit cards, SMS and premium rate telephone numbers in an attempt to make it accessible to everyone, however interestingly the company is muting a file sharing service that will allow you to share films, comedy, sports and music with your fiends, something we are sure the film studio are going to run a mile from.
So will the British Internet Broadcasting Company be our number one place for downloads in the future. We very much doubt it. The offering at the moment is too weak and the end presentation too amateurish to provide any real challenge once Apple or Napster get involved properly.
Like the lacklustre press event that was held in a room that would have required half the industry to turn up to fill, the company has sets its sights high, the trouble is, like the games console Gizmondo, they are likely to be crushed by the might of David.