Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Postal movie distribution; a solution looking for a problem?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

So I don't get any smart alecks pointing at me and laughing at my utter stupidity, I'll start this post by saying, I've got to be missing something here. These services must exist for a perfectly logical reason, I'm just too dumb to see what's staring me in the face, dancing a jig and singing, "here I am, look at me" at the top of its anthropomorphic voice.

Right, with that disclaimer firmly in place I've given myself free reign to be as simple-minded as I like and get clean away with it.

You've all seen these companies that specialise in sending you x number of DVD movies through the post for a fixed monthly fee. You compile an online list of must-watch-before-I-die movies, hand over your credit card details and wait for the first one to drop through your letter box. When you've seen it, you pop it into the prepaid envelope, bung it in the post box and they send you the next one in your queue. No more visits to Blockbuster, no more late fees, no hassle and lots of cheap movies. Great stuff, hallelujah!

So why is this considered revolutionary? People have been beaming movies straight to their TVs via Sky and cable for years now... all without the aid of Postman Pat. I'm not talking about setting up a subscription to Sky Movies either. I mean the 'Box Office' movies where you get to pick and mix what you want to watch by tapping a few buttons on your remote - the charge appears on your phone bill and the movies are 'delivered' instantaneously as if by Jedi mind trick.

Only recently did the music industry get its act together by adopting - rather than fighting - the Napster distribution model. So far their 'gamble' has paid off. Piracy is still rampant of course, but lots more people are choosing to purchase their music instead of stealing it. Any previously untapped revenue generated through this channel, above and beyond £0.00, I'd say is a bonus.

The movie industry has timidly followed suit in a limited way because movies are so much more cumbersome to punt around cyberspace. Imagine how fat your 'toobs' would have to be to stream, or otherwise disperse, video data via traditional, non-swarming mechanisms. Nevertheless, it strikes me as odd that Tinseltownians and movie distributors are expending so much energy debating the issue at all when Sky and cable make bandwidth issues irrelevant.

All Warner Brothers, Sony, Miramax et al need to do is grant the TV networks permission to close up the time frame between a movie appearing at the cinema and it being available to buy or screen in people's homes. Either way the studios would be employing an intermediary so that can't be the issue. Presumably the consumers who are in the habit of renting movies aren't concerned that they don't get to keep the physical discs so this is surely a moot point.

I just don't get it.

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