The Computer Blog

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Incredibly Inaccessible iTunes Store

I’m one of those people who’ve invested over four years of my life watching, talking about, and buying up every episode there was of Battlestar Galactica. Despite the behests of one of my friends who was also a BSG fan, I bought my episodic copies from the iTunes Store rather the waiting for the DVD’s. I preferred the almost immediate access to the material, the ability to place episodes on my wife's or my iPods, the ability to run episodes on either 23 or 24 inch computer displays, and, finally, the ability to stream episodes to our HDTV via Apple TV in our living room. Yes, I do have every episode that defined the series; but I am beginning to curse my naivete in trusting the iTunes Store too much. Doing so has cost me quite a bit of money.

You see, I heard early on that BSG was being shot in High Definition, a fact that left me scratching my head as iTunes’ copies of the episodes only showed up in Standard Definition. I shrugged and pressed on, figuring incorrectly that the releases would stay that way. They did until Season 4 after NCB returned to the iTunes Store after a catfight with Apple. The episodes were now High Definition and cost a buck more. Frankly, that fact alone didn’t bother me, and Apple and NBC made it worth my while by including a standard definition copy as well. So, I bought Season 4, as I had done with the miniseries and Seasons 1,2,and 3 and realized at the end of it all that I had a mixed breed collection that contained only one season’s worth of HD episodes. Then, Seasons 1, 2, and 3 showed up in the iTunes Store in High Definition. Surely, I thought, Apple would give me some kind of credit for the Standard Definition episodes I already had paid for and didn’t need to download again.

I was wrong!

Yes, boys and girls, even though the music side of the iTunes Store has a “Complete My Album” feature that lets you get some credit when you’ve already bought songs included on an album you decide to later buy, there is NO such accommodation on the video (e.g, TV) side of the house. To upgrade my TV library of BSG to get HD versions of the show (so I can get full utility out of my APPLE TV!!!), I am paying FULL PRICE and BEING FORCED TO PAY FOR SD VERSIONS I ALREADY HAVE!!! You can bet that since I’m being forced to pay for them, I’m also making sure I download them, even though they are winding up as somewhat useless duplicates on my hard drive. This is causing me to re-consider and think more carefully about purchasing TV shows from the iTunes Store of an ongoing series. Apple needs to institute the same type of crediting system toward TV shows that it uses on music when duplicity exists in the purchase. In other words, if the customer already has copies of a video being downloaded, the some kind of credit toward the larger purchase needs to be made. If not, customers may decide (and I certainly would) that waiting for the DVD is indeed the thing since the tools exist to crank out each and every episode for my iPod or Apple TV with or without Apple’s help.

Secondly, I searched all over the Apple site for some way to give them feedback about this, but there is no official place to provide feedback about pricing at the iTunes Store. This is something Apple needs to fix. It might help them in negotiations with the music and movie studios to have that kind of consumer feedback, and it will help the iTunes Store appear to be more accessible than it is.