Does ZillionTV Have the Formula?

One of the hot Web-based TV services getting a lot of buzz these days is ZillionTV. Currently in beta testing, the service has the backing of major content powerhouses such as Disney, NBC, Universal, Sony Pictures Television, and Warner Bros. Digital Distribution. The company will provide streaming video content over broadband Internet connections, partnering with Internet service providers (ISPs) to market the service. You will be able to watch some content for free after watching a commercial, or you will be able to rent or buy other content. “Buying” means that you can watch the program any time you want, as much as you want, but you don’t download it so you’ll only “own” it as long as ZillionTV makes it available since it will be stored on their servers.

To watch ZillionTV, you’ll need a device that is like a settop box. According to some reports, it will be less than $100, but the company Web site says that it will be free. We won’t know until its official roll-out what the cost will be. One detail that is clear is that there will be no subscription fee. ZillionTV management feels that the free-with-commercials and pay-as-you-go for rentals and purchases is a better solution.

I’m not so sure that they’re right. So far, I still think that Netflix has the best plan. You pay a low monthly subscription fee, and you get access to all the programming you want to watch. Granted, Netflix has a limited collection of content available for streaming, and it does not include many recent releases. On the other hand, ZillionTV only expects to have 15,000 titles available by the end of 2009, and that includes a lot of TV episodes. Netflix already has 12,000 titles in its streaming service, and is no doubt negotiating hard to get the rights to include more of their 100,000 title library.

I expect that people are more comfortable just paying a flat rate and watching what they want rather than having to make a purchase decision every time they watch something. Whether I’m right on that or not, it’s clear to me that people would rather watch shows without commercials than ones that include them, and that the Internet is how video content will be delivered to the home eventually. Stay tuned….