Dear Hollywood: Don't Be Idiots; Don't Delay Movie Rentals
from the seriously dept
Sometimes you just shake your head at ideas that come out of some executives that are just so incredibly dumb, it makes you wonder how anyone ever took them seriously. There have been some hints about this latest one, though. Just last week, in discussing the latest IP Colloquium podcast, we noted (with surprise) that Paramount’s top lawyer thought the solution to business model problems in the entertainment industry was “more windows.” Windows, of course, are the different time periods in which movies are released solely for different formats/media. So, it starts with the theater (the first window), followed by video, pay per view, cable and network TV — each representing another window, and another chance to squeeze more money out of the same content.
Yet, with the industry facing some challenges, rather than actually looking at what users want, its top brains seem to think that the answer is more windows. It’s hard to explain how incredibly short-sighted this is, because it’s so monumentally backwards that it makes you wonder what they’re thinking. At best, my guess is that the execs are extrapolating out in the simplest form that with the launch of each “window” they make more money, so the way to make even more money must be to offer more windows. Of course, this assumes two rather basic things that are totally wrong. One, is that these windows won’t piss off users and two, that those users have no alternatives.
But, apparently not realizing that, these execs have hit upon a few different attempts to add more windows. First, they’ve been pushing for the permission to break your TV or DVR with selectable output control barring your ability to tape movies. This way, they can create a new “window” of movies on TV that you can’t record, that they can offer before the movies even get out on video. Of course, this will (a) piss people off and (b) drive them to more piracy. Brilliant.
The other attempt, is to get video rental places to stop renting movies when the DVDs first come out. The LA Times had an entire article explaining this plan, whereby the studios would force all rental services, including Netflix and Blockbuster to not rent certain films — but only offer them for sale. The idea (short-sighted as it is), is that this would somehow force people to buy more DVDs, which gives the studios a higher margin than rentals. We actually heard about this earlier this year with the contract terms that the studios tried to put on Redbox, but it’s apparently trying to do the same with Netflix and Blockbuster as well.
This idea is so bad that even the LA Times, who tends to support its hometown industry more often than go against it, put out a separate opinion piece with the original article, calling this new idea “crazy” and “absurd.”
In the meantime, what do customers actually want? Well, there’s pretty good evidence they prefer choice not being limited by windows. They’ve been clamoring for so-called “day-and-date” release, whereby all these windows are compressed. If you don’t want to see a movie in the theater, why not be able to get the DVD? It’s as if the studios don’t realize that part of what they’re selling is the social experience of “going out” to the theater. Even better, if the DVD comes out at the same time as the theater version of the film, less marketing money needs to be spent to sell more DVDs, and you can do nice tie-ins, like having the ability to buy the DVD as you walk out of the theater. Giving people more value and more choice is what the market is asking for.
Instead, Hollywood execs are trying to take away choice and limit value. Incredible.