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Apple and Disney's two-inch disappointment

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Opinion The AP went with "groundbreaking." Robert Iger, Disney's new chief, exclaimed, "This is the first giant step to making more content available to more people online." Such praise, however, shot well over the rather humble news last week that a video iPod arrived which will play ABC TV shows for $1.99 a pop.

This isn't an anti-Disney thing nor is it an anti-Apple or anti-Apple freak thing. We love Mickey Mouse and can't think of anything better than seeing the rodent with a white cord dangling around his neck.

No, the cynicism stems from how hard the industry as a whole - IT, content owners and media included here - tries to hype what consumers don't care about or want. Paying $1.99 to watch 40 minutes of TV on a 2.5 inch screen? Why not offer us an Orange Julius fetched from the toilet or an asbestos jockstrap?

Anyone who decries the use of P2P technology or fingers BitTorrent as evil can look at this Apple and Disney announcement and then bite his tongue. These technology and media companies are quite plainly mocking consumers by offering up such teeny content. Hasn't the video on a portable device idea already played out as a disaster over and over again?

And the press is no better. All types of media outlets ran around last week, touting the revolution of paying for miniscule images on miniscule screens as a great thing. Er, you can watch the same programs for free on your massive TV, and this is considered pretty unimpressive.

Hardly any of the reporters even mentioned that consumers could actually watch fullscreen versions of the TV shows on their computers via iTunes. That's the bigger news, although we're not sure it's even all that big.

(John C. Dvorak recently hit on the media's terrible Apple fetishism and so did Jack Shafer over at Slate. Examples of the shameful Apple coverage can always be found on the pages of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal where David Pogue and Walt "My Assistant Will Segway Me a Latte" Mossberg puke up non-stop advertorials for Steve Jobs.)

This week has seen local Team Rodent affiliates, actors and union groups gripe about the Apple and Disney deal. Don't their concerns more or less prove that Disney knows this whole thing will be a flop? Would the media giant really not tell any of its major partners about such a plan just so it could secure a prominent place on the iPod or even iTunes? We don't think so.

No, the content holders still want to wall themselves off in an old world. They'll toss the occasional bone out here and there to make it seem like they know what consumers want, but in reality they don't care.

Take, for example, MLB.com, which has been charging well over $10 a month all season to let consumers watch baseball games live on their PCs. Well, when playoff time hits, all the games go to FOX and ESPN, and MLB.com shuts up shop. Even though you've shelled out tons of cash during the season, you can't watch the games you really want to see, if like us your favorite team is in the playoffs. Go Astros.

Still, MLB.com claims you can see them. It has a "Postseason Package: Live" offering up for sale now. Only, it's not live at all. You can only watch archived games. The only live option actually available is streaming radio. And here we thought Americans were technology savvy capitalists and that radio was a thing of at least Web 0.4.

And why not deliver the live TV? All season, viewers have seen ads just like the TV watchers sitting at home. Can't FOX keep showing you the same ads and make some extra cash off subscribers? It sure could, but the content owners would hate to sell something you'd actually want.

You can be sure that kids and adults the world over will keep downloading their favorite TV shows and hunting down music if the best these companies can up with is 2 inch programming and DRM-laced tunes. The only thing worse than these feeble offerings is a press corps that cheers the move.

Why not at least point to the more impressive selection of 5 shows via iTunes and then go ahead and criticize that for being a mediocre selection? That would be the right thing to do.

Sue the kids for getting what they want? Not in America. You're supposed to sell it to them. ®

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