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The curious case of movie downloads

cdonNot too long ago things were looking gloomy for paid music downloads: tracks were crippled with DRM, prices were higher than on physical albums, listening required proprietary players. All in all, the user experience was quite abysmal. Today, with DRM-free downloads from iTunes and EU friendly subscription services like Spotify, it looks like a whole new landscape, inviting the consumers to come and revisit the concept of legal music services.

You could easily be lead to believe that this evolution would have touched the whole entertainment industry. I made this mistake on a lazy sunday morning, when walking to the video rental store was just not a realistic option. has been sending me frequent emails about their movie download services, so I decided to give it a shot and chose one of their current offers: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for just €1. The store offers both a web player as well as a download option. After clicking on the web player it became obvious that CDON forgot to mention one thing: Internet Explorer only. Oh well, copy the URL in Firefox, fire up IE8 and try again. Ok, this time I got as far as viewing the CDON promotional intro clip. However, no movie after that, just the same ad again and again.

Looks like the only option was to download the movie. To make things more “user friendly”, CDON doesn’t provide a download link. Instead you download an .exe, which will launch some download application for your protected WMV file. Just bring it on, install more useless components on my PC. Anyway, started the app and looked at the download progress indicator for a while. I was suspecting there was an issue with the screen refresh, since the meter stood firmly at 0%. After some 10 minutes it moved to 1%, at which point I became very suspicious. How long would this movie download actually last?


I’m on a 10Mbps cable modem connection and normally have fairly decent speeds on leeching stuff from the same continent. However, in order to get this 2,5GB movie file from CDON I would have had to wait for almost 20 hours. It didn’t take me too long to realize that “THIS – MAKES – NO -F*CKING – SENSE!”. I had bought 24 hour “rights” to watch the movie, which meant that I would be extremely luckly to have a chance to view the media before WMV DRM locks me out of my purchase. Providing a download speed this slow for the content was like a big glowing middle finger from CDON.

So much for legal movie  downloads. Naturally I grabbed a torrent version of the same movie, had it on my HDD in less than 30 minutes and watched the damn thing. By the time it was nightfall there was still some 5 hours remaining in the legal download, so I never had the pleasure of actually receiving what I had paid for. Lucky it was only € 1, plus next time I’ll know better.

- Edit 2009-09-05 -

Yesterday CDON sent me another campaign email promoting movie downloads again – this time for the generous price of € 0.30 per movie. Wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt, I decided to give their service one more try and opted to purchase Alpha Dog. Did everything go smoothly this time? You bet it didn’t. There was absolutely no improvement in the download speed of the movie compared to last time. Once again I had to resort to a Torrent download, which delivered me the non-DRM version of the movie in 25 minutes. By the time I had acquired the illegal version of the file I had in fact purchased, there was still 12 hours remaining in the official download. I rest my case: slow, slower, CDON.

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