Hollywood's melting bipolar icecap

Hollywood's melting bipolar icecap

Summary: Hollywood's bipolar icecap is starting to melt. This week brings a flurry of announcements about Hollywood establishment content heading online, even in league with former file sharing enemy, BitTorrent.


Hollywood's bipolar icecap is starting to melt. This week brings a flurry of announcements about Hollywood establishment content heading online, even in league with former file sharing enemy, BitTorrent. Warner Brothers has finally figured out that meeting illegal downloaders halfway is more progressive than trying to erase piracy by trying to shut down P2P sites. Of course, in the WB/BitTorrent service, they still come up with Draconian DRM--the WB/BitTorrent service requires a password to watch the file (OK), but the file can only be viewed on the computer to which it was dowloaded (not OK). WB hopes to convert perhaps 10 percent of the pirates into legal users as a starting point, but the DRM might just drive those trying to become honest downloaders to other P2P sites to get less encumbered content. The TV shows will be priced starting around $1, but movies will be about the same price as DVDs. Not a great incentive for content that is tied to one machine.

In other news, the Apple iTunes store has added episodes from Fox's library, including "24" and "Prison Break," at $1.99 per episode for locking into Apple's device. Slowly but surely, Hollywood is trying out new models to increase the dollar yield per TV episode or movie and join the digital world.

In some ways, this shift by the networks and studios is driven by a realization that they have to intersect with viewers, especially the younger generation, where they consume media--less newspaper, TV and movie theater and more PCs, mobile devices and place-shifting, such as via the SlingBox.

In addition, the infusion of so-called user generated content is changing viewing habits, meaning less time devoted to what's produced by mainstream media. In the near term it’s a David and Goliath story, in which every David, or Dianna, has a high tech slingshot loaded with Web pages, blog posts, podcasts and video clips that are competing for attention with what the incumbent salaried media elite produces. YouTube's most viewed video is a three-minute lipsynch to the Pokeman theme song---over 10 million views, nearly 8,000 comments, 19,000 favorites, production cost=zero. The Pokemon franchise might have issues with the music rights, but the amount of brand exposure for Pokemon from is massive.

While the vast majority of bloggers, podcasters and vcasters are not on the radar or merely hold sway in their micro-communities, some are attracting lots of attention, at the expense of Hollywood's money machine. This phenomenon doesn't mean that the products that come out of Hollywood, like the recent Mission: Impossible III, won't be successful, but the digital world is calling. Following Moore's Law, it won't be too long (a decade?) before anyone can have their own high-definition Hollywood studio in their living room and access to millions of virtual objects and billions of viewers...

Topic: Legal

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  • WB or not WB

    History repeats. The only newsworthy item is that it's repeating faster now.

    WB's marvelous new program resembles the RIAA's 1990s-era ventures into online music distribution: higher prices for less value, with the customer doing all the work.

    I mean, look at it: the price is higher than picking up the same flick at Wal-Mart, which is available at the same time -- and probably faster, comparing downloads speeds to a 5-minute trip to the store. You can buy popcorn from Wal-Mart, too.

    In return for slamming your broadband connection for a few hours, plus money, you get something that you can't play on a DVD player, can't take next door to watch with your neighbor, and will almost certainly become totally unwatchable long before the DVD does.

    When this turkey tanks, as it was obviously designed to do, WB will point to its failure as proof that online distribution is a Bad Idea and that piracy is killing the movie business. (For more detail, just read the script. This is a remake of the RIAA version of a few years ago.)
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Key phrase: "higher prices for less value"

      Love the concept--sell it for the same price as the DVD, but make it much less useable, and leave off all the bonus features. Wow, sign me up!
      tic swayback
  • Note to content providers:

    If you want your online sales to explode, [b]lose the DRM![/b] Doing this will also put you back in charge, and wrest a lot of control away from Apple. Consider casual copying and usage of copyrighted material, free PR, and take advantage of it by placing links in the communities / services where this happens, to cheap download sites. Also distribute a lot of content free with embedded ads ? such as movies / shows that have ads placed in the dark lower band like you see on a number of music videos.

    There are a lot of ways in which content providers can monetize their wares in this ever expanding Internet era. Whatever you do, lose the DRM and resist the impulse to constrain your customers. Instead to try to figure out what they want and how they want it; then provide it with superior services over free ones.
    P. Douglas
  • Who will use this...

    ...rich kids maybe who are iPod or NoNameBrandPod crazy?

    This idea is crazy when for a few dollars you can buy/rent videos online complete with extras, sub-titles, etc. and copy it for your own use to watch later even to xPod with readily available software (some free). So a few folks download movies via P to P but they are few and not major players and the quality of most is poor.

    It's ludicrous for the studios to think they can eliminate or even make a dent in illegal copying. The day after they release a film on DVD with a new scheme the "fix" is on the Net.

    Their downward revenue stream IMO is because more and more people would rather watch a movie on DVD in their living room than in a movie theater and don't mind waiting a few months for the release. Hold the movies from DVD/PPV release for a year or more and more and more folks would return to the theaters.

    Illegal copying will never be stopped and no matter how much they try they will fail.