The Digital Jukebox Arrives

The Digital Jukebox is open for business. The last hold outs – the major movie studios – finally made their movies available for purchase today as digital downloads from Movielink and CinemaNow. Distribution competitors like Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Blockbuster are expected to join the fray soon.

If you take a look at the comments regarding this news over at Digg.com, few people are pleased. The complaints? Many of the digital downloads are available only at a premium over the DVD version of the movie, most do not include the extras available on DVD, and all of them include DRM. Look elsewhere and you will find complaints about the generally lower resolution, the difficulty in playing digital downloads on your television, and the incomplete selection.

The complaints are valid, but they will not be for long. With competition comes better prices, higher resolution, improved selection, wider availability, more extras, and relaxed DRM. With increased spending in infrastructure comes lower distribution costs. With lower distribution costs comes an increasingly attractive alternative to physical media distribution.

What drives consumer acceptance through the brief transition from physical to digital media is impulse buying. If you are in the mood right now for a particular movie you do not currently own, there is no need for you to drive to the store and purchase the physical copy, no need to wait for Netflix or Amazon to ship you the movie, and no need to hunt through the Bittorrent sites and wait the several hours for anything but the most recent and popular movies to finish downloading.

Instead, with the push of a button and a few minutes of buffering comes gratification. The success of iTunes, the same success that convinced NBC Universal to extend the model to their Universal Pictures unit, shows that the near instant availability of media continues to revolutionize our consumption of media.