Netflix, Hulu, and other mainstream movie and TV services may not be ready to launch their Android apps just yet, but a startup called Zediva hopes to fill the void by letting you stream DVD rentals directly to any PC, Mac, or Android web browser supporting Adobe Flash.
The good news is that the service is easy to use, has a small but decent selection of current DVDs to choose from, and offers decent, if not spectacular video quality on my Google Nexus One with Adobe Flash Player 10.1. The bad news is that I’d be kind of surprised if Zediva manages to stay in business for long, because the company has the sort of business model that drives movie studios to file lawsuit. It’s also relatively difficult to scale. Here’s why:
Most online video streaming services have a digital copy of a video hanging out on a server so that it can stream to multiple users at once. Companies usually pay a movie studio some sort of licensing fee in order to offer this video. Zediva takes a different approach and has a bank of DVD players hooked up to the internet. The company goes and buys retail copies of DVDs, sticks them in the players, and when you click a button to rent a video, the DVD player will start up and begin streaming media to you across the internet.
You can play, pause, or rewind a video. You can view previews or skip past them. And you can access some special features such as language selection. You also have to put up with FBI warnings and long pauses between the time you hit a button on your screen and the moment your action is registered by the remote DVD player.
Zediva claims the business is legal thanks to the first sale doctrine, which basically says that once you buy a book, DVD, or other media you can resell it. That’s what keeps used game stores, video rental stores, and used book stores in business. But things get funny when you hook your DVD player up to the internet, and I’m not aware of any companies that have tried this kind of approach that didn’t manage to get sued into oblivion.
Even if Zediva does manage to stick around, the company’s going to need to buy an awful lot of DVD players if it expects to expand the service — since every time you rent a video, you’re tying up a DVD player for a few hours. Still, Zediva tells the folks at NewTeeVee that the company can turn around a video much more quickly than Redbox, since it doesn’t have to loan out a physical disc overnight. Once you’re done watching, the video is free for someone else to use.
Prices start at $1.99 for a single movie. Or you can buy 10 movie rental credits for $10.
Update: If you figured it was just a matter of time before the MPAA sued Zediva, it turns out you were right.