Sigh. How many would choose this option? Very few. Yet you call it stupid when they don't offer an option that few people would choose. I see.
What evidence do you have that "very few" people would choose to pre-roll the stream if that feature were available? I have actual numbers that favor the proposition that people would use it.
Consider that the average household in the United States has a connection that's "rated" at 11.4 Mbps or less (source: http://readwrite.com/2014/10/0... - October 2014, so maybe it's 12 Mbps by now?). Given that the actual throughput delivered on most connections is between 60 and 80% of what's advertised (for many, only 40% of what's advertised during prime time), that means most people can expect to get around 7 Mbps, optimistically. And that's before you take into account the overhead of hundreds of TCP connections -- per computer/device in the household -- that maintain background services, checking for updates, other tabs open in the web browser, etc. -- which can use up a significant portion of that overhead. So to get your average 7 Mbps, you need to go around to every room in the house and instruct everyone to stop what they're doing, stop using the Internet entirely and shut down their computers so you can watch a video at 720p with your 7 Mbps connection.
And then once you get rolling, it will still drop down to 480p or 360p fairly often when other subscribers on your oversold ADSL or cable connection try to download stuff at the same time as you. A consistent 720p stream needs a steady throughput of at least 4 Mbps, but it's very, very easy to get a lot less than that unless your connection is basically fiber to the premises.
How is that not the same thing as simple buffering? The problem is that you want control over a feature that very few people want but it's stupid that programmers didn't offer it to you. But to answer your very specific feature set, YouTube offers it from select studios.
"Simple" buffering on most streaming video players is designed to only buffer ahead a few seconds if you pause the video. It will only continue to buffer more than that if you are actually playing the video, or if your connection is so slow that it can't even keep up with the lowest available quality setting (often 240p or lower).
It's nice to know that one service out there supports what I want "from select studios", but that hardly solves the problem when the majority of the content I want is on other services. I can also download the free movies produced by the Blender Foundation and watch them in 1080p in VLC over and over, but Big Buck Bunny gets old after a while, as entertaining as he is.
Content Cartels meaning the legal copyright holders? Yes, they have control over content they own. But that's what copyright means.
The problem is that the Content Cartels deploy policies that are actively harmful to the majority of their customers, and do so knowingly, for reasons that I frankly struggle to understand. I believe that they would actually make MORE profit from their content if they would allow people to download it in 1080p and/or pre-roll the stream, because this would enable people with slower connections -- remember, a majority of the US population -- to enjoy the content in the highest quality.
My working thesis is that people who are unable to enjoy the content at a lower quality will eventually become frustrated with the service and stop using it. If this means they resort to RedBox, then maybe that's not a net loss for the Content Cartels, since they're paying as much or more for the rental compared to an online streaming subscription; but it's still a practice that's extremely anti-consumer.
Do they have the legal right to be asshats to their customers and make their lives harder? Sure. But not everything that's legal is beyond reproach or question. And just because they own the content doesn't mean that anyone who can conceive of a better world where products are more useful or more convenient should shut their mouths.
Your argument is fallacious because you are imposing a solution of yours that only you want. If people are streaming, they want it now. If they can't get it now, there are other options. That's like saying I want high speed fiber but I don't want to pay anything to install it. You have to pick and choose between two options; you don't get to create a third option then complain that it's not unfair when it doesn't exist.
I'm hardly the first person to conceive of this third option, seeing how you yourself admitted that an existing streaming service already offers it. Why is my OP modded +5 Insightful if I'm the only person to demand this? What, exactly, would it cost the studios to enable this feature? A few hours of development time to remove artificial restrictions that actively prohibit the action I'm asking for?
I'm not asking them to add a new feature, really. I'm asking them to remove an anti-feature. As a software developer and someone with extensive experience in media encoding and processing (familiar with the innards of numerous media frameworks: Gstreamer, Stagefright, Xine, DirectShow...), I can tell you that their code must be significantly more complex and harder to develop with the anti-feature of preventing pre-roll, compared to the much simpler and more "naive" case of just letting the pre-roll proceed as long as the customer wishes.
And yet you would defend them out of the misguided perception that whatever they can do within the confines of the law is perfectly fine and beyond reproach. Well, I'm voting with my money, and I'm doing everything I can to inform other users on what is possible in the hopes that they'll do the same. Let's see how many of their customers they have to lose before they start listening to the demands of consumers to -- GASP! -- expect a company to do all it can reasonably do to offer a good customer experience to their paying customers. What a concept.