Some Studios More Self-Destructive Than Others

These days, with all the whining of Hollywood, speaking about the problems with piracy, costs of movie production, and lack of DVD sales, you might think they would not be ready to kick the chair out from under where they are hanging by the neck.

That is not the case. Some studios are helping the demise of the DVD by pushing up the delivery of download content before the delivery date of DVDs for sale.

Whether this practice is showing a nod to inevitability or showing gross stupidity only time will tell. It certainly does seem counterintuitive and counterproductive, as many people will purchase a DVD, view it once, and put it away for later viewing, knowing up front that they  are paying a bit more for that privilege.

The full story comes from Ars Technica

Digital distribution is getting a little more love from some content providers this season as they experiment with releasing digital downloads of shows before the DVDs become available to consumers. However, this trend remains in the experimental stage, despite years of studios dipping their toes into the simultaneous- and early-release pool, and some providers remain steadfastly against giving the Internet any sort of advantage over their precious (and dying) DVD sales.

Any movie that I like, I purchase. I know others who operate in this same mode. We are not the minority. On the other hand, if we feel ripped off by spending a dollar at Red Box, no further money will be spent on the inferior product.

When I was a young person, dating made movie attendance de rigeur. Once I was no longer dating, the need to attend was just not the same. If I were dating today, i would be bringing the girl to a meal at my house or apartment, followed by a viewing of a movie (again, from Red Box) in all but the most unusual cases.

The reasons for this are about 3-fold. One, movies are far too expensive at the theater compared to the experience possible at home. I’m not cheap, I’m simply investing in my own theater experience instead of renting someone else’s. Two, because the theater experience is frequently bad (screaming children being allowed to be that way because of stupid, thoughtless parents, audio that is loud but distorted, despite being “THX-certified”, theaters so full of people that the ambient temperature is unbearable for the price I’m now paying). Three, the overpriced refreshments are hardly worth the purchase, once you realize that, while they used to subsidize a better quality theater, now those theater owners have cut their own throats by being greedy every step of the way.

Because these factors are additive, it means that the studios, theaters, and anyone else in this overpriced chain are not receiving my money, all due to their own greed and negligence.

Two examples of providers who are tipping their hats to online distribution come via the Wall Street Journal. One is Sony Pictures, which has begun making the animated movie Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs available for rent to the owners of “some Sony TVs and other devices,” even though the film won’t be on DVD until January 5. The same also applies to Showtime’s Weeds. The producer, Lionsgate Entertainment, chose to put episodes of the latest season online a week before they come out on DVD—a good move, since DVD sales are no longer allowing studios to print money like they used to.

Along the same lines, the hit AMC series Mad Men has been releasing its episodes online the day after airing, like many broadcast network shows—this has kept fans happy and buzz on the Internet strong. Similarly, other movie studios have spent this year closing the release window between DVD and video on demand (VOD) availability through certain VOD services.

Still, this doesn’t mean that everyone’s getting on board, or that those who are experimenting are doing it in a way that most of us would like. Weeds fans would have undoubtedly preferred to get those episodes a bit earlier, like when the season was still airing. Other Showtime shows, such as the latest season of Dexter, have also been infuriatingly missing from the Internet world (except on P2P networks, of course) and will probably remain so until the DVDs come out. By that time, many who would have paid for the episodes online or watched ads for them will have already pirated the entire season just to get their fix.

Obviously, cable providers like Comcast are giving this two thumbs up, as this will lead to download overages that they can soak the customers dearly for.

The reality is that the industry is still feeling out how it wants to handle the Internet, and some studios are more progressive than others. At some point, however, they will have to converge upon some accepted standard release window for TV shows and movies, and they will have to throw Internet users a few more bones if they want to keep their viewership.

Once the greed abates (good luck on that one!), these companies might actually realize that there is enough for everyone,and offering multiple ways of delivering their product is the wisest choice. It takes all kinds to make a world, and for every one like me, who will watch inexpensively and then buy a DVD, there are two out there who like the theater experience and don’t mind the cost, believing it is part of the cost of doing dating business. Others will download happily at home, knowing that they will not want an archival copy, but appreciating the home experience with its controlled atmosphere.


Marvin-the-martianRemember when there was a cartoon before the movie? I remember Saturday afternoon double features with Charms pops (5 cents, I was an Army brat) that lasted through both movies (if you didn’t bite!)

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