Zediva’s Fast Failure

By  |  Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 12:42 am

On Wednesday, Jared wrote about Zediva, a new movie-streaming service that offers new releases for cheap–by streaming them onto the Internet from banks of DVD players, without the permission or cooperation of the companies that own the content. He was worried it could turn out to be “another workaround that doesn’t quite work.”

Bingo! Or at least that’s the way it looks at the moment. The site went down, due to technical glitches that the company’s Twitter feed appears to blame at least in part on a mention on the Yahoo home page. (Being reviewed–pretty favorably–by David Pogue in his New York Times column probably didn’t help, either.) Then it came back up, but with a note explaining that the best prospective new members could do was to join a waitlist.

Now, some of my favorite Web sites and services have been crushed by unexpected demand upon launch. It’s practically a rite of passage. (Many come back up swiftly, and work just fine from then on–which always leaves me wondering, why couldn’t their proprietors provide sufficient infrastructure in the first place?) So it’s possible that Zediva will bounce back.

But you gotta wonder. The Twitter feed says that the service received a hundred times the views that the Zediva folks anticipated. If their expectations were so wildly off, how are they going to deal with the demand if the service is a hit? (If they get to be just five percent as popular as Netflix, they’ll have a million customers to deal with.) Isn’t the whole concept ludicrously unscalable? It’s a goofy scheme that strikes me as being only a half-notch or so more serious the one in Be Kind Rewind, the movie in which Jack Black and Mos Def accidentally destroy a store’s worth of VHS tapes and try to recreate all the films as home movies.

When I first heard of Zediva, I wondered how long it would take for the MPAA to sue it into extinction. Now I’m wondering if it might implode before the lawyers have a chance to go to work.


Read more: , ,

5 Comments For This Post

  1. Bob Says:

    I am not a lawyer, but the concept seems on solid legal ground. That is, you essentially have a very long cable between your DVD player and your TV. However, renting out regular DVDs is a bit less legal – all store bought DVDs say “not for rental” on them. And I don’t think the company will be able to obtain rental DVDs from the studios…

  2. Don Lubach Says:

    I know one of the members of this company from college. I feel like I ought to drop everything and drive to San Francisco to help them through this. Maybe round up all of my friends' DVD players to donate. 🙂
    They're good people with fine characters. I think they'll make it beyond this. Sounds like they've done a lot of legal work already so they will not be surprised by the legal challenges ahead.

  3. suntzu Says:

    not a new concept that went bust for the same reasons. never got to court. what are they going to do, buy a huge warehouse of mountains of dvd players for just california alone? making sure they all stay running and without glitches. they will have to guess the popularity/demand for each movie at all times. rare or older movies will be very back burner. i think they hope to make a fast buck before they fold. the only other hope is a deal with the studios which blockbuster would seem to have beaten them to the punch and would infringe on they're contract. they could end up a poor cousin to netflix and redbox; more likely the fast buck and fold.

  4. RobertMfromLI Says:

    Wow, you (Harry Mc) dont understand how these things can happen? It's really simple. You start a service like this, you don't expect such immediate notice, you plan for an initial customer base, you build your infrastructure to handle 2x, 5x, 10x, 100x that (value depends on type of service offered and expected growth)…

    …and then, a lot earlier than expected, you get good publicity on a few really large sites. Now, you have 10,000x the traffic you built for.

    It happens all the time. Heck, when stories get run on Slashdot, we (slashdot users) have managed to take down some VERY large servers from some VERY large companies… sometimes (on popular stories) for a couple days. Why would you think a startup, however well they planned, would be any different?

    Sadly, that point (I just made) makes most of your article a moot point. So, I doubt you'll be able to correct your misunderstanding of how the web works.


  5. roger Says:

    They probably didn't anticipate the huge publicity…