IFC, Comcast Close Movie Release Windows
from the there's-still-a-draft-in-there dept
Independent film studio IFC Entertainment and Comcast have announced a deal where Comcast users will be able to watch IFC movies the day they’re released in theaters for $5.99 via the cable company’s video-on-demand service. Studios should be aggressively making these deals — deals that increase consumer choice and let them cast a wider net to catch those consumers (and their dollars) that don’t want to conform to their rigid distribution plans, instead of driving them to downloads. Unsurprisingly, it’s the independents that are making it happen, while Hollywood’s idea of innovation is to release films on DVD and VOD at the same time, months after they’ve been in the theater, and months after all the advertising and hype is gone. There are a few different things going on here: major Hollywood studios assume that by releasing films to every platform at the same time, they’d be cutting off the incremental revenues they’d get from things like two people buying tickets to a film as opposed to paying the VOD charge once, or people that buy a DVD after paying to watch a movie in the theater. But those fears aren’t that reasonable, particularly when weighed against all the opportunities that arise when a film’s available across all the different distribution channels at the same time. The idea is to increase the size of the overall pie, not just make futile attempts to protect the size of certain pieces.
The second factor is the theaters themselves, which have been pretty vocal in their opposition to simultaneous releases. At this point, theaters’ only competitive metric is the measure of exclusivity that windowed releases provide, and removing that would force them to confront the reality that many people find going to the movies an increasingly unpleasant experience. Currently, the only alternative for people that want to see first-run movies but don’t want to go to the theater are downloads or other illegal means. The simultaneuous release of films across platforms would let people that want to see new movies, but don’t want to go to theaters, make legitimate purchases — which is a good thing, last time we checked. Forcing theaters to improve their offering would benefit the entire industry. Just look to China — where piracy runs rampant — for proof. The movie business is currently founded on exclusionary tactics that keep people (and their spending) out unless they conform to its rigid structure. People that want other alternatives, and are willing to pay, aren’t left with any choices other than to turn to illegal means. But doing away with release windows, encouraging competition among different distribution platforms, and introducing other inclusionary measures that allow for more consumer choice stands to benefit everyone in the value chain.