A Fresh Thought For The Movie/TV Studios

Clearly, the music industry is starting to “get it.” With services like Zune Pass and Rhapsody, consumers now have a reasonable alternative to “stealing” music. Where’s the movie/TV industry in all of this? Other than not-so-clever advertisements about how “Piracy Is Stealing?” I have a couple of suggestions.

For the cost of a CD a month, we can download all of the music we want. We can listen to it any time we want. The catch is that once we stop our subscription, we also lose our music. We’re really only renting it, after all. In the case of the Zune Pass, we get to keep 10 of those songs per month permanently, but with a service like this, it’s really in your best interest to keep your subscription.

The closest we get to this kind of service in the “video” business is NetFlix or Blockbuster Online. Since I am more familiar with Netflix, I will use it in my examples, though I’m sure BBOnline is very similiar.

The problem with these services is that they are mostly still physical media-based. I get DVDs in the mail, and I send them back when I’m done. I do also have access to a library of movies that I can stream directly to my computer, XBox 360, TiVo, and other devices, but the library’s limited. I’m not going to be able to get new releases on the day they come out. That’s just not happening yet.

The Arguments

Before I get to my two recommendations for the movie/TV studios, I also want to address the arguments I hear quite often about these services.

  • I want to own my library, not rent. This argument is very common when I talk about Zune Pass. Some people have this distinct need to “possess” their media. But I do understand where they are coming from. What if I can’t afford the service anymore? What if Zune Pass goes away? Now I don’t have any music.

    I think that these are risks that we take no matter the “thing” we buy. Were these people upset when VHS became obsolete, and they had no choice but to start buying DVDs? Not as much. Did they ever rebuy the same movies on DVD? Probably. I’ve got a solution for you people. Be patient.

  • They’re not the same, music and video. I’ll listen to the same song over and over, but watch a movie only once. I’ll agree with you, to a point. But I’ll also suggest that you take that attitude because of the barriers the marketplace has presented you with. You watch a movie once because it’s going to cost you money to watch it again. And you don’t BUY the DVD because re-watching it isn’t worth $15-$20 to you.

For Those That Need To “Own” It

I have a simple proposal to the studios for those people that just HAVE to own their media. Change your business model. Change it from one that relies on the change in formats, and make a move that is more friendly to those that love your content.

Sell a “lifetime license” to a movie. If you truly feel that the only way you can be profitable is by re-selling your content to the same people, over and over, you’ve got bigger problems. Sell me your movie ONCE, and let me consume it on any device that I own. Provide me with download links for the Zune, the iPod, my computer, my TV, etc. Anyplace I can watch a movie, provide me that format.

I know that part of the business model for the studios is the eventual change of format (VHS –> DVD, DVD –> BluRay), but there’s GOT to be a better way. Physical media is quickly becoming the way of the past, and they should try to find a way to profit while dropping the current barriers to watching their material.

I propose that movie and TV studios come up with a fair “lifetime” price for a piece of their material, and manage those relationships with their audience directly. If a DVD costs $15 today, would you be willing to pay $30 for it, knowing you would NEVER have to pay for it again? I think I might.

For Those That Think They Won’t Watch It

I am not an excessive movie watcher. Perhaps a couple of feature films a month. I do watch a decent amount of TV though. LOST, Heroes, Big Bang Theory, Mythbusters, Family Guy and Robot Chicken to name a few. There have been MANY times where I wanted to go back and watch part of a movie, or part of an episode, but because of the barriers to doing so, I just couldn’t.

My options would have been to rent it, order it from Netflix, buy it, or steal it online. The cheapest and easiest way for me to get it? Stealing. But if my Netflix subscription included EVERYTHING, that wouldn’t be an issue. I could stream and movie or show I wanted right to my Xbox 360, or my laptop, and just watch the part I wanted to see. I’d be willing to nearly double my subscription price to Netflix if I knew that I’d be able to watch anything, anytime. For the studios’ perspective, DRM would be pointless. It would all be streaming, not downloads. Mass distribution of their property could diminish. Cracking a DVD will always be possible, Blu-Ray or not.

Think about it…what if you could pay $25 a month for an online streaming service that gave you access to every TV show (yes, even the ones from yesterday), and every movie (once they are done in theaters)? And because it’s streaming from the internet, there’s no reason that EVERY internet-connected device couldn’t access this media. I think there’d be no question about its success. I’d even be willing to watch ads if you wanted to keep the price around $15.

So why isn’t this available to us? What’s holding it up? I’d love to hear an experts opinion, but comments are for continuing the conversation. Would you like to see these options? Do you have other ideas?

5 thoughts on “A Fresh Thought For The Movie/TV Studios

  1. So I had this idea awhile back that I think fits your model. Someone needs to pop up that is an independent content authorization party. They sit in the middle. The content providers make their content available in any format. When you buy the content, you are authorized for the actual content, not the media. The independent party maintains your authorization to the content as well as all of your authorized devices. Any device can then view the content if you are authorized to view it. The publishers get out of the DRM game and the user gets format agnostic content. Win/Win.

  2. Nice post. But not sure about all streaming, all the time. There are times when I want stuff offline. Like when I want to watch in HD (all the time) and the network quality is not so hot where I am (much of the time).

  3. I love the idea of not owning media. My DVD’s are slowly plotting my demise. I’m also unsure about how great the streaming of all this data would work out but I wouldn’t mind having DRM or some other version of “cyanide pill” for the media if you cancel your subscription or do not routinely re-up your access rights.

  4. I have posted a lot about this topic recently on my blog. The main reason its not all you can eat is competition. Competition makes it hard for anyone to agree on anything. So it takes about 10 years of vetting for something to become the norm. Hopefully if enough people share our opinions they will spead up the process.Ultimately for TV what we are talking about is the death of cable as we know it. TV industry gets more than 25 dollars out of a user a month. Look at your cable bill next time. TV has a vested interest in seeing your vision never happens.Same was true for Music. Video will follow the same trend. We just have to vote with our wallets. Consider cancelling you cable plan and go for online alternatives instead. The world will change because of it. Don’t and we will have another 30 years of Cable.

  5. I’ve been thinking about this for years. However, I spent most of the time thinking about all of the technical challenges involved. Think about the storage that is required to handle this. Lets say each movie is 4 Gigs (relatively small if you ask me for an HD movie) and you need to be able to stream it at 3 Mbps for HD qualitty (relatively low bandwidth). Lets say you have to stream this to 1000 clients all watching at different points. that’s 3 Gbps of streaming you must support. Hard drives don’t support that kind of bandwidth. You now have to spread that 4 Gig file over many hard drives and then load balance the servers to break it up over those drives. 1000 clients is amazingly small, and you are probably storing that across 100+ hard drives, resulting in 400 gigs of space for a single movie. Once you start talking about all moves and all TV you’re talking about huge amounts of storage space and bandwidth. That is a very complex problem. What is far easier is to download the movie first (how a lot of the music subscriptions work) but then people would have to wait hours to watch a movie (unless they could actually store all locally) plus you still have storage issues to deal with.Lets just say I think there are a lot of technical issues to deal with. Sounds like a lot of fun to work on though.

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