Why We Rent Movies from Apple and No One Else

There is a lot of competition out there for movies on demand.  When my wife and I think about watching a modern movie worth paying for, we always go with our Apple TV. Recently, I was wondering why we do that, and the answer wasn't hard to come by. We're loyal, happy Apple customers, and we enjoy using Apple's products.  The competition has no chance.


We do have options. There is Netflix, but that's for older movies that we watch free, as part of our monthly subscription.  And there's DIRECTV's movie Video on Demand (VOD) service that has the latest movies for the same price as Apple: US$4.99.  But we go with the Apple TV instead. Always.

The fact is, we are long-time Apple customers, going back to that first Apple II. We are happy, loyal Apple customers. We enjoy exploring and using modern Apple products. We each have an iPad, and we each have an iPhone. And a Mac. We've been using iTunes for a long time, and we've invested in a range of integrated Apple technologies.

Over the years, we have come to appreciate how Apple treats us. We have seen how Apple has built up an infrastructure that works well across all our iOS devices and Macs. We enjoy being able to go to the Apple store in the Mall, buy accessories and get technical help in person. Technologies like AirPlay and continuous development of Wi-Fi in our products have made life simpler. And when a new software update comes out, we have the option to install or not install. That's not true with cable/satellite set-top boxes.

What about those cable and satellite services? In my opinon, these companies haven't invested in the technology to bring us firmly into the fold. My current DVR doesn't have Wi-Fi and only recently has it been possible to record in one room and play back in another. Content is trapped on their hard disk, not ours. The slow development of technology, the low esteem they have in second rate equipment, and our isolation from our video content just doesn't compare to Apple's ways. A DVR is a single point solution, and it doesn't scale well into other products or aspects of our life. That's why it's so easy to  change services.

Some Examples From DIRECTV

Lately, DIRECTV has put a lot of effort into its own movie Video On Demand (VOD) service, but hasn't gained much traction from what I've read. I think that because adoption has been slow, the approach has been to solve the problem with brute-force marketing instead of better technology. As a result, my wife and I are routinely pestered to use it. It's annoying.

One also gets the feeling that there's manipulation going on.  Content providers make sure that a 42 minute "one hour" HD TV show is priced at $2.99 on the Apple TV. That's a ridiculous price.  I've calculated that with DIRECTV, we spend about 58 cents for each hour of viewing. So for now, it makes financial sense to have an optimum mix of a satellite service and Apple TV.  But we don't like it.

Here's another example of how a satellite company like DIRECTV can alienate the customer with old technology. Recently, our DIRECTV HR-22 DVR failed. I called DIRECTV with the error code, and the representative determined that we would get a replacement. It was shipped FedEx overnight, and it was up and running quickly.

What annoyed us, however, is that our HR-22, acquired in 2009, was replaced with another HR-22. That's a four year old product. You'd think, considering that we pay a special monthly fee for that replacement service, that the company would have sent something newer. You'd also think that the company would be embarrassed to send out equipment that old.

Worse, all the shows we recorded on that DVR died with it. No cloud syncing possible.

Sending such an old model was something I wouldn't expect from Apple. For example, when Apple replaced my iPod nano 1G (2005) in a recall notice, I received at 6G (2010) model. But with DIRECTV, I got an obsolete replacement.

My take on all this is that the company would rather squeeze every dime they can from us instead of exciting us with the latest technology. What's being telegraphed is that we're not part of a modern family, moving together forward in time, with fabulous new products and technology - products to be proud of.  However, with Apple, one does, in fact, have that feeling, and we'd never want to give up iCloud, our Macs, iPhones, calendars, reminders, photo library, iTunes, and so on.

DIRECTV has not taken the initiative to integrate itself into our lives as Apple has with a broad range of modern services.

And that's the key, right there.

I should point out that things have gotten a little better with our DIRECTV service. The DIRECTV app, which I've reviewed, is drop-dead gorgeous. I can live-stream to my iPad while my wife watches something else on the DVR and Plasma. But that's another key.  It's the Apple iPad that we're using.

Loyalty is Earned, not Churned

For now, we'll continue to always watch our movies on the Apple TV out of sheer, joyful loyalty to Apple. We love their products and services, we love the technology, and we love the integration across products. We love the retail stores in Denver. We love how we're treated.  Everyone else is just trying to make a buck, selling a movie any way they can. It's a failed proposition. We don't owe them our business.

And that's why, without fail, when we want to watch a recently released movie, we turn off the DVR and mindfully send our money to Apple.