CinemaNow Is Outstanding

They joy of having an “IT guy” (aka Ross) around is that he willingly expresses his opinion whenever given the chance.  Since he plays around with even more stuff than I do, one of the ways I learn to is listen to him rant and rave about things he’s played with.  A few weeks ago, it was his lousy experience with the iTunes Music Store for video.  That post generated some useful comments – especially around DRM.  Ross fired off another rant – this time a positive one about his experience with CinemaNow – along with a general response to the comments on the previous post.  Again – I’ve lightly edited to fix spelling and grammar, but left the IT guy essence intact.  Ross follows…

First, I’ll respond to some of the comments on why I support DRM. Let me be clear, I support DRM in concept – that concept being that you should be able to purchase something and use it anywhere you want. Your iPod, your smartphone, your TV, your computer, whatever. You should not be able to share that file with anyone else, period. That’s how DRM should work, and if it did work that way no one would really have any reason to complain. However, DRM does not work that way, which is why all current DRM technologies are flawed. Fred Wilson put it well saying that it’s all about “dial tone” – you pay your monthly fee to get your pipe of media and that’s it. The rest should be transparent.

The other comments that stuck with me were about the about the quality of music on iTunes and that while I’m savvy enough to have a serious media room setup that I didn’t know going in that this would suck. On the first point let me clarify that I think the quality of music purchased through iTunes is excellent. It could be better, but it is good enough for my iPod and good enough for most people’s uses. What I mean by good enough is that most consumers will notice zero difference between an iTunes file and a ripped MP3. Most consumers just don’t care and they don’t have the ears that I have (and I was a music major in college so I have pretty tough ears.)  Regarding knowing going in that this would suck – I should have known.  I figured it would, but I fell victim to a sudden bout of optimism and I wanted to go into it without any preconceived notions.

Ok – enough old stuff – let’s get to my point for this week. Yesterday Melanie and I were out of movies. We’d sent back our Netflix movies earlier in the week and were expecting more to show up on Saturday. For the first time Netflix failed us and we had nothing new to watch. Being lazy (c’mon – give me a break – I’m an IT guy) I didn’t want to drive to Blockbuster so this gave me the perfect opportunity to try out CinemaNow to watch a movie. While Melanie was, uh, less than thrilled about this idea (after our iTunes mess) but she agreed to give it a try. I ran to my PC and started setting up a new account.

Setting up a new account was.  Within two minutes I was ready to purchase a movie. We started looking through them and found the first problem, a very limited selection. We eventually settled on Junebug (which was not a comedy despite the claim that it was – but it was very good.) I proceeded to purchase it ($3.99 seemed steep to me) and download it. My home theater is built around a HP z545 Media Center PC connected to my HD projector (720p) and then connected to my high end Onkyo receiver for 7.1 surround sound. This was going to be the real test – could we watch a movie, downloaded over the net on this system, and have it look great?

After purchasing the movie it started to download. After this began I got a count down timer letting me know that the movie would be ready to watch in 30 seconds.  That’s smart – progressive downloading – we weren’t expecting that – so we let it download the entire movie while we got ready.

Ok, so now it’s time to watch. It’s downloaded, I’m ready to go, Melanie’s ready (as are our dogs) so let’s hit play. Guess what – it didn’t play! It needs to download some security update for Windows Media Player. I’m thinking, “damn it, not this again!” 10 seconds later the download is done and it’s starting to play. Not only does it work, but it looks outstanding – very close to DVD quality.  During the entire movie I didn’t see a single compression artifact, the video didn’t skip, and the sound was perfect (but it was NOT Dolby Digital 5.1 – something had to fall short.)

Overall, I was delighted.  CinemaNow has this figured out and knows how to deliver something of real value to the consumer – congrats guys, you’ve won a customer. Now, get the price down or offer an unlimited or capped subscription and I’m 100% there and dropping Netflix. Oh, and add some more movies while you’re at it (studios listen up, this is how consumers will get movies in the future.)

  • http://htpp://reelfanatic.blogspot.com Keith Demko

    Good analysis .. have been looking for good reason to abandon Netflix, and will now consider it

  • Warren T

    Doesn’t work with Firefox… Only works with Internet Explorer.

  • http://6thfloor.org Jason Youngquist

    CinemaNow – bad experience

    My experience was completely different than Ross’s…and I’m an “IT guy” as
    well.

    If you do have problems trying to get it to work, good luck trying to call
    up someone on the phone to answer your problem. Why? Because the only
    troubleshooting and contact information they provide is via email. If I’m
    having a problem downloading/watching a movie, I’m not going to want to fill
    out a web-form and wait 24-48 hours for someone to get back to me. I could
    hop in the car, goto Blockbuster, and be back home in 30 minutes, watched
    the movie, and returned it back to Blockbuster before someone decided to
    reply to my email. Plus, once I’ve started watching the movie, I only have
    24 hours to view it. So, if there is an issue with the video (such as it
    “echoing”) my time has expired before someone from support sends me an
    email. Sure, they can credit my account, but if they can’t help me get the
    playback problem solved, it does me no good.

    11/8/05 – first sent to support:
    the audio on the movie “off the map” which I downloaded was bad.
    it kept on “echoing”
    I watched it for 10 minutes and then said enough was enough
    could you please look into this and also credit my account?

    11/16/06 – second email sent to support:
    I finally got “off the map” downloaded…it stalled on me at least 7 times.
    Now, when I try to view it, I get a message saying “to access this content
    you will need to click the link below. your license may have expired or you
    may have to log in”

    so I click the link below and then up pops cinemanow.com, and I can see that
    I’m logged in but the “play” button is still grayed out.

    so I try logging out, then logging in…play button is still grey.

    I’ve futzed with this for at least 2+ hours, ie. the first time I tried
    downloading and had the bad audio, the second time I tried downloading it
    and had to manually resume it ~7 times because for some odd reason it was
    timing out, when in fact my web browsing was just fine, only the cinemanow.com
    site was having issues.

    so, I will not try this again. please put the 3.99 (or whatever it was) back
    on my credit card as a credit.

  • Peter

    Downloaded a movie to be played “on up to 3 computers”.
    Well – it will not even play on one – a Presario R3000, Windows XP (with all updates), and Windows Media Player 10.
    After CinemaNow made me change my registry and had me make other system changes it still will not play.
    BEWARE!!!

  • rob

    CinemaNow downloads suck!
    I just paid for a rental and all I got was the file but it would not play through cinemanow’s OWN media manager. What a f&^%$#@@ ripoff!

  • Jack Barnes

    SO now I have to download an new media manager? Oh, I'm sure this one won't try to be the ONLY media device on my computer. I'm no IT guy but this is bullshit. Thank god I payed with paypal, they are going to jerk the money right out of their grubby hands.cinema now sucks, cinemanow sucks, couldn't get the movie to download without a new media player being installed, cinema now scam,call it enema now.

  • Doug

    Similar problems for me with CinemaNow. Supposedly the download (bought by the way) movie would play on 3 devices. I had hoped to load it on my Archos as well. No dice. My problem is that the download (re-downloaded numerous times at customer support's request) did not contain the necessary DRM components. Continual errors stating the media usage rights did not exist. As such the movie would not play on anything including their own CinemaNow Device Manager which they now require you download. Unbelievable !! And do not try to get help from customer support. Their standard MO is to copy paste FAQs replies into their response. If you continue with the issue they will not even read the thread and will place the SAME POST as they put in before.

  • Rob

    Horrible service. I will not invest in any DRM technology until they've figured it out before it hits the consumer.

    I downloaded my movie on to my one computer. I wanted to play it on a wireless laptop connected to my Home Theater projector sys. I tried copying the file folder to the Network Storage (My Book World)…no go. So I then installed the CinemaNow media player on the wireless and copied the newly downloaded movie folder to the CInema Now folder on the wirelss. The Library would never list the movie. I tried playing it straight away in WMP but it couldn't figure out the DRM. A no go. What a time waster. What a hassle. At one point WMP asked me to logon in to cinema now to download DRM. Didn't work – even though it said I had three PC usage rights, I got an error message stating my rights did not include playing it from the wireless. Then after that it started saying "Page load error".

    All of you guys – DRM folks, Roxio software "player folks", Microsoft and the RIAA – go f*ck yourselves and stick your head back up your as*es where obviously your brains have been eating sh*t all day screwing the consumer. And NO, I am not convinced by your stupid a** pblic messages before movie times about downloading – becuase your incompteance steals my time on the other end. My time? You song/movie rights? Stealing is stealing you f*ing stupid bastards!@!!

  • http://fark.com/politics Ian

    This article was written back in 2006. Maybe back then it was a good media manager…. no… no it never was. It blows. Hard.

  • Joe Frustrated

    I am completely frustrated with it as well. I have a brand new, out of the box Archos 7 with all firmware upgrades and updates installed. I purchased and downloaded 5 movies from CinemaNow to watch on a trip and I'm sure you can guess how many I could successfully watch. Zero. There was a FREE personal video screen on the plane that actually um WORKED. Very frustrating. When I contacted CinemaNow via chat, they made it sound like they were doing me a favor by crediting me for one movie. After a long "discussion" back and forth with them telling me the license file didn't download but not being able to tell me why nor how to fix it, they eventually relented with a sigh and "…well this is what I am going to do…" as if they were really going out on a limb for me. They credited me for one rental. That's it. I'm EXTREMELY unhappy with this service and not only will I never use them again due to their lack of support and the attitude I received from their customer service personnel but I'm fairly certain the Archos is going back as well. I'm an IT Systems Manager, as are many of the others in this stream, yet I've never encountered such poor customer service/support.

  • LittlefieldK

    I payed extra for a digital copy of Salt at Best Buy, then I find out that their digital copy will not work on an ipod. Cinema now is a rip off pure and simple.

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