New startup Zediva attempts to circumvent all the licensing hassles experienced by streaming video services like Netflix, iTunes and Hulu through operating more like a traditional movie rental store, except online.
The catch? “We don’t rent digital copies of a movie,” founder Venky Srinivasan told Rotten Tomatoes, “Our users rent a physical DVD, along with a DVD player from us for a fixed amount of time. They then control that DVD player remotely over the internet — and stream the movie privately to themselves. Think of it as a really long cable and a really long remote control.”
The “really long cable” that is the Internet means not having to negotiate with content companies over streaming rights. This loophole means that Zediva can feature more recent releases at a lower price than companies who stream digital files, charging $1.99 for a movie versus $3.99 on iTunes and Blockbuster. Ten movies on Zediva are $10 versus a $7.99 monthly membership to Netflix. Users can freely re-rent a Zediva movie for up to 14 days.
It seems like Srinivasan is serious about the physical DVD legal hack. When I visited the site the movie I wanted to rent, Eat Pray Love, was all rented out, just like in a real brick and mortar store. You can even request to have your physical DVD mailed to you Netflix style, even though “additional charges may apply.”
With around 40 movies in the library at the moment, Zediva is starting small and focusing on offering “the top two or three movies of the week.” Srinivasan doesn’t think the startup is breaking digital copyright law, and in fact believes that movie studios will embrace the model. Well, here’s to being hopeful, and disruptive.