Andy’s Researching the 2004 Oscar Screeners shows just how far video sharing has come. This must be some truly scary shit for the movie folks. Now, let’s see if they have put the extra time they’ve had since the Napster explosion, and the lessons learned from the music folks, to good use in working through the problem. I mean, really, they need to look at their content distribution system very carefully here.
The one really huge difference here is that movies, far more than music, draw a premium price during their initial run. Meaning, you can go to a theater and see a movie, but you can’t take it home until several months later. This definitely works against the movie folks when it comes to sharing. This time period where they create this “artificial” scarcity is also the time period where pirates are most likely to want the film. Obviously, the theater experience is supposed to be a premium viewing experience from a screen and sound perspective, but this is being eroded as time goes on and home theater gets better and cheaper. Theater owners who have been overcharging us for everything from tickets to popcorn may find themselves the first set of business victims of this new content sharing battle. After a film”s theatrical run, there is a long gap until it is commercially released as a for-sale product. The scarcity during this time period is even worse than the scarcity during the theater run, thus, sharing will continue during this part of the movie’s lifecycle.
So really, the movie business has two issues where the music business had one. During the initial theatrical run and the ensuing time period until the commercial release of the movie on DVD, there is no legal way to take a film home, and so, sharing during this time period of a movie’s life will still be an issue even once their equivalent of the iTune Music Store is launched. Of course the second problem is some sort of electronic distribution like the iTMS, and I have seen several companies working on this problem already. In all cases, they are going about things the way that pre-iTunes Music Store online music ventures were done, with Draconian DRM, limited access time, and no ability to burn to DVD or CD. I predict that these ventures will be equally unsuccessful as the early online music distribution was, and that they will have to come around a bit, despite the lessons learned in the music sharing battles, which, of course, continue even now with legitimate online music distribution only making partial inroads. They should cut out the middle man, and begin rethinking the way the distribute movies now, or the next few years will be even more painful for them than the last few have been for the music companies. It definitely looks like the hardware companies are well on their way to creating a device demand for this content.