Why Apple beats Google (and Netflix, too) in the race to VOD success

It's becoming increasingly apparent that the only entity that's NOT going to be trying to get into the pay-per-view video space in the next few month is Blockbuster, and that's only because its brick and mortar shell of a DVD rental business is moving inexorably closer to bankruptcy. Of course, give it a few months to shed its debt, refinance and pull in a few of the favors it's earned from studios because it earned them tons of money during its heyday. It's bound to re-launch online with a new business model and a better attitude... not to mention a ton of competition better funded and, by then, with better traction than it'll have.

Apple debuts its rechristened iTV tomorrow afternoon; it's very likely to at least let everyone know that it's moving from Macintosh 1984 commericialdownloading movies to streaming them through its iTunes storefront tomorrow as well. With CEO Steve Jobs' connections to Hollywood well established, through Pixar and Disney, he's got an awful lot of doors already open to receive him.

Google, meanwhile, reportedly is continuing to sniff around studios as well, even though it hasn't found many open doors for help for its soon to be launched Google TV play. No matter, the search giant may not even be mentioning its smart TV play this time around. The Financial Times reports it's now on a different mission: trying to convince studios that, with two billion visits a day, they'd be nuts not to use the YouTube brand to get their movies over the top to consumers who appear to not only be abandoning DVD rentals, but movie theaters as well. A Bloomberg report today said this past summer's attendance was the lowest since 1997.

Hulu, of course, still has the promise of a Hulu Plus premium service lurking, Best Buy just signed a deal that will give it some earlier releases for its CinemaNow service, and Netflix continues to throw money at the perception that it can't stream anything but older 'new' releases.

While it's not very likely that any of those services will get to a day-and-date release deal that's going to make everybody happy, if I were a gambling man, I'd put my money on Apple (with a side bet on Google, of course) to be the most successful over the long run.

Unlike Netflix, Apple doesn't have to extract itself from a faltering DVD-by-mail business. Where Netflix has a solid 15 million-plus subscribers, Apple's iTunes has 65 million users whose credit cards are on file, and who are used to buying music and apps on a unit-by-unit basis as their whims move them.

Unlike YouTube, Apple doesn't have to re-invent itself and shed the image of a site that's primarily a repository of user-generated content that, while amusing, has little commercial value. It also doesn't scare Hollywood studios as does Google, a Visigoth at the gate who so badly wants to come in. Right or wrong, the perception is that Google just doesn't understand the Hollywood way.

Remember the Macintosh commercial from 1984 that introduced the first Mac?

The revolution is coming. Again.-Jim