iPod Video: Selling What is Already Free

By Richard Menta 7/18/05

The latest rumors that the iPod Video would finally make its appearance this September caught me a little by surprise not about the unit itself, but what Apple plans to sell with it.

Steve Jobs has long said that for an iPod Video to be successful owners would first need content to play on it. Jobs, of course, meant content he could sell them ala iTunes as most of the personal media players (PMP) today can record shows from television as well as play movies that are traded online.

The Archos AV 400 is available on Amazon

The most obvious form of content for a video ipod are recently released motion pictures, but the movie industry has balked over making their better movies available. DVDs are riding high now and that has made them less responsive to other forms of delivery. TV episodes are another form of content, particularly episodes that are made available (for a modest fee) immediately after the first airing is complete.

It is the latter that illustrates my point. DVDs of TV episodes sell very well, extremely well if you are Dave Chappelle or the producers of the Family Guy. People are spending $40-$50 for whole seasons of television programs we can all tape at home for free. Like bottled water sells well in the world of free tap water, consumers are buying these shows.

But if the rumors are true Apple is not focusing on Movies or TV for the iPod Video, but on video content that comes from the industry they already work with, the music industry.

According to the rumors Apple will sell on its iTunes site music videos. Each video will retail for $1.99, double the price of the audio track alone.

Now my first reaction to this was why would anyone want to pay for something they can record off of MTV and VH1 for free? Then I remembered my TV thinking above and realized that people may indeed pay for these videos. Even if many of these videos are already available for free on other sites.

Music Videos began as promotional media for the record industry, a way to get their artists on TV and therefore garner all critical exposure. Recently, Universal announced that they will no longer offer videos for free, they now must be paid for on a per video basis. This is all nice, but people are trained that videos are free. Will they pay?

The answer is some will despite the fact that Archos, iRiver, RCA and other manufacturers sell players that can record those videos from the boob tube for free and it's legal (the Sony Betamax ruling specifically talks about content recorded from television).

I say if Jobs can sell music videos while he waits for the movie industry to come around more power to him. I say that because it also validates something.

It validates the theory that people who trade music files will also buy the CD if they like what they hear. After all, if they will buy what's available for free on television and broadcast radio how can you say they won't buy what is available for free on the file sharing applications?

The answer is you can't.

The iPod Shuffle is available on Amazon

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