In an announcement today, Target has stated they will be shutting down their movie and television streaming service, Target Ticket, effective March 7, 2015. Current customers have until then to transfer their content to their new partner, Cinema Now (a Best Buy streaming service).
Here is the official announcement, you should have received in email form if you have an account with them:
That’s the news part of it, and here’s where I’m going to go into a bit of editorial section of this post. I see a lot of problems with the current setup of streaming media, problems that do not benefit the consumer. And, in a way, these problems do not benefit the industry either, because when people get left with a bad taste in their mouth by following legal means they give up and resort to piracy.
The Core Problem with Streaming Media is that you DO NOT own what you Purchase
When you purchase a digital movie or TV series, you do not own it. Sure, you’ve purchased it, but it’s really a long-term rental. Or potentially a long-term rental is the better way of putting that. You see, companies layer these movies and TV shows in DRM (Digital Rights Management). This DRM protects you from copying and/or pirating it. That’s one way you don’t own it, because if you did own it you could make copies. But, that being said, it is technically legal to own a copy of something you’ve bought. It’s when you give it away or sell it (especially selling), that it becomes a problem.
To really own a digital copy of something, you need to be able to be able to copy it as many times as you want for yourself. But, with DRM, you can’t. And how this becomes a problem, a big problem, is when companies or services shut down.
“Yeah, about that stuff you bought from us, we’re gonna need that back… yeah…”
I will admit that so far in the streaming service game that UltraViolet has made a pretty good dent. And I do admire it in a lot of ways, even though it is clunky. One of my favorite things about it is that you can use it across multiple services. What that means is you can log into Vudu (Walmart’s streaming UV service), Flixster (another UV service), CinemaNow, and what used to be Target Ticket. That meant you could have the same library of movies and TV shows across all services (theoretically). I felt like this was an improvement though, over everyone having their own thing going on.
For example, Xbox Video, Google Play Movies and TV, and iTunes all use their own thing and are not tied into UV.
So, I keep asking myself, as services change and drop, where is the consumer left? Will they get an email saying, “You have until such and such date to download and store your media library?” Or, “Sorry, you will lose your media library?”
If you look closely at Target Ticket’s email, it implies that you will lose some purchases from them. The second bullet point reads (I’m making the emphasis), “… you may access this content on CinemaNow, provided it is also available on CinemaNow.” So it is very much possible that some of the content you purchased through Target Ticket was not UV content, and therefore will not be found in the CinemaNow library. The final bullet point reminds that all UV content purchased through them can be found in other places.
What about Subscriptions?
I will say this about subscription services like Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and Netflix, at least they are honest upfront. You do not own the content, you will not own the content and will never own the content. It is a subscription service and when you terminate it, you will no longer have access. If they terminate their service, you will no longer be able to pay for a subscription, and will no longer have access. Whether you like this idea or not is one thing, but at least it’s honest. I recognize with subscriptions that I do no own the content, and as quickly as I can have access to it, they can take it away at the start of a new month. (shakes fist)
Digital Content is Typically Overpriced
Another problem with the digital media solution right now is pricing. I purchase at Walmart, Target, Amazon, or wherever and almost always get a better deal on purchasing a hardcopy outright verses digital. That’s ridiculous. Furthermore, a lot of times you can purchase a Bluray/DVD/digital combo. Now you’ve got a hardcopy and a digital copy for maybe a few bucks more than it would have cost to just buy the digital. And now, I can watch the digital copy without fear of losing my copy should the service shut down (because I’ll still have the hardcopy). And if the content is a little older, you can often find it in a cheap bin on sale for half or more the price of the digital alone.
What’s the answer?
I don’t know. But I do think when a service shuts down, they should be required to give you copies of your content. One thing is for certain, DRM hurt the music industry for a while and now that DRM has freed up more, piracy is less of an issue. The movie industry just needs to figure out a way to let people buy AND own their digital content without fear of losing it.