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Test Driving Zediva

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If you follow as many tech blogs as I do, then you have probably seen something about Zediva. I was intrigued by what I read, and signed up for the service to try it out.

Zediva is an online streaming service for movies, but they come at this in a different direction than companies like Netflix or Hulu.  Zediva uses a very unique plan to distribute movies. They have a data center full of DVD players, and actually stream each movie from a dedicated DVD player. During the rental period the DVD and DVD player can only be used by a single renter.

Because they are using physical media Zediva is able to bypass the 28 day wait period that RedBox and Netflix have imposed on them after many movies are released. You can rent one movie for $1.99 or buy a bundle of 10 for $10. Here is a note from their FAQ about the rental period:

When you rent a movie from Zediva, you have up to 14 days to complete watching the movie. Each time you rent the movie, you receive control of that DVD for 4 hours.

If you get interrupted while watching a movie or don't want to watch it all at once, you can return to Zediva and rent the movie again without additional charge for up to 14 days. Just return to the movie page and click on "Rent". No movie credits will be deducted from your account after the first rental during the free re-rental period.

I was lucky enough to be able to test out the new streaming video service over the weekend.

My experience with Zediva

I use a Dell laptop from a few  years ago to send a 1280x720 picture over VGA to my 37" LCD, and I have the Performance internet plan from Comcast (up to 15 Mbps according to their website). I was very impressed by the picture quality of the video — it seemed certainly as good as anything I have watched from Netflix. In addition, their website states that there are plans to add Blu-ray titles in the future. There were minor hiccups in the picture quality, but these were few and far between (and are as likely to be from my network/equipment as from theirs).

The playback controls were simple to use, and very intuitive. Because they are using physical media I also had access to subtitle and language (including Directors Commentary) options that are not often available in streaming content.  Other DVD features (such as deleted scenes) are not currently supported though. If you have children, I'm sure you have heard the whining to watch a rental movie (from Redbox or similar) again after you have returned it. With a 14 day rental period, this should become a thing of the past. My three-year old will be ecstatic that she can watch MEGAMIND to her heart's content for the next two weeks. 

Worth the wait

Registration is currently closed. However, you can join the waiting list, and from my experience with Zediva's service, I highly recommend that you do. Because they use physical DVD players, I'm sure scaling up will be a slow process, but well worth the wait.

One dollar (if you buy the 10 movie pack) for a very high quality stream of a recently released movie that you can watch for 14 days, and you don't have to worry about returns. With this option I may never visit a Redbox or Blockbuster Express again.

Just one potential problem...

The legality of Zediva's business model is certainly a cause for debate, as evidenced recently in an ArsTechnica post. Zediva believes they're operating within the letter of the law and respecting the rights of the copyright owners. Others aren't so sure.

What do you think? Is Zediva in a legal loophole or in a legal blackhole? Is this a service that fills a specific need, or is it just a flash in the pan?

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