Media junkies have felt a small shiver of anticipation from recent press reports pointing to a linkup between NetFlix, the mail-order video-rental company, and TiVo, the hard-disk home video system. Maybe we’ll soon see the NetFlix catalog made available via the Internet.


The idea definitely has some allure. Anything that lets us avoid a trip to the video-rental store, while simultaneously offering more choices of movies, sounds good at first glance. In some ways, it’s the future of home entertainment.



If such a service ever does take shape, however, it’ll likely include severe restrictions on what customers can do with what they’ve rented. The copyright wars ensure that.



The service would further reinforce a business model that reflects the entertainment industry’s narrow view of the world. To Hollywood, we are nothing but “consumers” of “content,” and as digital content takes over we will rent, not purchase, what we consume.



But the Internet is a more expansive place than that. The future of video should be an expansion of choices: into dimensions far beyond the traditional tube.



TiVo is plainly aware of the potential. It has talked about services where people can download material from the Internet to watch on TV — including programming not controlled by the small number of companies at the top of the entertainment industry.



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