While I was driving home from Thanksgiving in southern Utah, I listened to the story of Grooveshark on the Startup podcast. It was really kind of intriguing. I never really used Grooveshark much, but apparently what the product did is let people resell their music to other people online.
There is a company that is quite popular here in Utah called VidAngel. The idea behind their product is that they buy several copies of popular films, and then you can buy the film from them and then filter it for profanity or whatever, and then stream it. Once you’re done watching it, you resell it to VidAngel for a dollar less than you bought it for. The thing is right now VidAngel owns all of the movies. I’m curious why you couldn’t replicate that with a distributed system.
For example, my family owns all of the Harry Potter movies. We’ve probably watched the older ones twenty times, but the newer ones only two or three, and we’ve had all of them for several years. Basically the discs sit on a shelf and take up space, but we never really watch them. Instead I think a system could be created that would let you send in your movies. I could let people send the movies to me, and then I would rip them and store them on a server. Then whenever someone wanted to watch a movie they could get on and buy the movie for $20 or whatever, then watch it, and then sell it back for $19. So basically you could stream any movie for $1, and our collection could be massive.
Out of that dollar, the service could keep 50 cents for server costs and whatnot and then give 50 cents back to the owner of the disc. That way everyone profits a bit.
One major advantage of this is the size of the collection you could amass. I love Netflix, but one of their biggest problems is the lack of great content. Their TV shows are awesome, but they never get good newer movies. With this, movies could be available as soon as they come out. And perhaps you could charge a premium for streaming brand new movies while demand is high, and then make them cheaper as time passes and demand settles down.
Really I don’t think the system would be exceptionally hard to build. You’d want to worry about scaling eventually, but an MVP could just be uploading a movie to Amazon S3 and then sending someone a link to it once they pay $20 and then refund $19 of that when they return it. It would all be manual at first, but as the service grows, it could easily be automated.