So I signed up for a 7 day trial at CinemaNow to see how well this whole "movie on demand" thing actually works. My first movie I rented, which cost me $2.99 was Amelie - which I've only seen before with Spanish subtitles and was therefore eager to see again. (There's nothing harder than listening to one foreign language while reading subtitles in another foreign language...)
Actually, I have to say I wasn't expecting anything remotely consumer friendly. I was expecting to have to wait 4 hours to download the entire movie before I started watching, or if I did start "streaming" the video, it would look like crap and therefore not be worth it. I was completely wrong! It actually works REALLY WELL!
It took about 30 seconds or so for the movie to start, and then I could start watching it. It seemed a little pixeleted when I sat directly in front of the full-screened movie like you would normally sit in front of Word Doc, but as soon as I sat on the bed (my desk is in the bedroom) which is a reasonable distance from my 17" monitor, it looked and sounded perfect! I couldn't believe it. The .asf file was quickly downloading in the background over my DSL, and while it was going on, I was happily watching the movie in real time. I was totally impressed. The resulting file was 627MB and I could view it for 24 hours. Trying to watch it now gives me an error which says my license has expired. No biggie - it's just as good/bad as Comcast's OnDemand service, which despite it's limitations, I like a lot. There's nothing like watching HBO series when you get a chance without having to wait for your TiVo to record all the episodes before hand.
I have to say that I'm now *very* excited about the TiVo + NetFlix partnership! It's going to be great some day soon to turn on my TiVo and see a menu of movies to see, which I can then start watching right away. It's going to be awesome to have all of NetFlix's movies available at the click of a button. I can't wait.
That said, I'm going to cancel my CinemaNow account now before they start wacking me for the $7.99 monthly charges. They don't have enough of a selection (no Long Tail) to interest me or make me go through the effort of hooking up my PC to the TV - I'd rather just use Comcast's service or walk up to Blockbuster (yes, I live less than a block from a video rental store... and I still complain).
The mobile angle on this is, of course, with DSL speeds over 3G cellular networks, there's no reason in the *world* why I can't get full-on movies on demand to my mobile phone as well. MobiTV has shown how possible it is to watch normal TV on your cellphone over 2.5G networks. When 3G arrives en masse it'll be even more compelling. I wonder if we'll start to see a bunch of generic Online Video Stores like we do with music stores now? Look at LoudEye and their white-label music stores they've sold to AT&T Wireless and Nokia to see what I'm talking about.