Studios Fed Up With Funding The MPAA: Changes May Be Coming

from the about-time dept

A few years ago, the major record labels finally started to realize that, perhaps, shoveling many millions of dollars to the RIAA was a waste of good money, and they severely cut back funds. You may have noticed that, while the RIAA had taken the lead on the copyright front in the first decade of the new century, over the past few years, it’s been a lot quieter than the MPAA. It appears that the MPAA may be about to go through a similar transition. Just a few weeks ago, we pointed out that the MPAA seemed to be desperately trying to justify its existence by doubling down on ridiculous and misleading claims about “piracy” and “content theft” rather than actually helping studios adapt to the modern era. We also noted that MPAA boss Chris Dodd was on something of an apology tour after the MPAA was caught completely off guard by the Sony Hack and did basically nothing about it, seriously pissing off execs at Sony.

There’s a reason Dodd was groveling. It appears that the studios are finally realizing that maybe the MPAA isn’t working in their best interests after all, but is just focused on justifying its own existence:

In a behind-the-scenes drama, the Sony Pictures chairman Michael Lynton last month told industry colleagues of a plan to withdraw from the movie trade organization, according to people who have been briefed on the discussions. He cited the organization’s slow response and lack of public support in the aftermath of the attack on Sony and its film ?The Interview,? as well as longstanding concerns about the cost and efficacy of the group.

While the MPAA convinced Sony to stay in, it appears that the major studios are thinking it’s about time the MPAA shift its focus — and tighten its belt a bit:

If adopted, their still emerging propositions might jolt the group into line with the new realities of a changing entertainment business. They might, for instance, open the association to new members and expand its interests to include television programs or digital content. They might also reduce the heavy annual contribution of more than $20 million that is required of each of the six member companies: Walt Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Sony.

The report notes that they might even give up their super fancy DC headquarters (the “Jack Valenti Building”) which is just blocks from the White House.

Of course, it’s not entirely clear how the MPAA’s focus will actually change. It wouldn’t be surprising to find some studio execs still want to double down on backwards-thinking, anti-internet campaigns. But, at least some seem to recognize that Hollywood hasn’t kept up with the times, and that’s partly because the MPAA kept focusing them on the last war, rather than on updating for the internet era.

Kevin Tsujihara, the chief executive of Warner Bros., said he, like Mr. Dodd, welcomed an examination of the organization that would mirror a similar review of cost and mission at his company. ?Now is as good a time as any? to look at fundamental questions, Mr. Tsujihara said in an interview. He added: ?We haven?t, as an industry, evolved fast enough.?

And, as we’ve pointed out, it really seems bizarre that the MPAA spends so much on an entire “content protection” division. At least some of the studios appear to be questioning the value of that approach:

But those briefed on the position of several companies said virtually all the studios have chafed lately at the high cost of maintaining the M.P.A.A., along with its worldwide antipiracy and market access operations, particularly as Sony, Warner and others are cutting staff and costs.

Frankly, as we’ve argued for years, it would be great if the MPAA actually became a forward-looking organization that looked to help the industry adapt to the modern era. It appears the organization is going through an inevitable crisis after years of making bad bets. Hopefully, it recognizes that embracing the future, rather than fighting it, is the way forward.

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Companies: mpaa, sony, warner bros.

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Comments on “Studios Fed Up With Funding The MPAA: Changes May Be Coming”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Next they will be making their full catalogs available on Netflix with no window between the cinema and the online release. If it happens I’ll be stockpiling supplies for the impeding apocalypse.

They might, for instance, open the association to new members and expand its interests to include television programs or digital content.

This can be both good and incredibly bad. If the MPAA actually shifts its myopic sight from the piracy bogeyman it can be a good thing.

John Fenderson (profile) says:


Frankly, as we’ve argued for years, it would be great if the MPAA actually became a forward-looking organization that looked to help the industry adapt to the modern era.

This is the great tragedy of the MPAA. Trade associations can actually be a force for the betterment not only of the member companies but of the industry and society in general. The MPAA has chosen to go down a different path.

However, given that the MPAA is really just a handful of movie companies, I suspect that its institutional attitude is a pretty accurate reflection of the attitude of those companies. So I don’t really blame the MPAA, I blame the member companies.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Potential

So I don’t really blame the MPAA, I blame the member companies.

I think it has formed a weird two-way street, though. As humans we are really great at at making ourselves slaves to damaged systems that we ourselves built. So while the MPAA’s existence and overall attitude is the fault of the studios that forged it, it’s now an entity with its own momentum that feeds back into and shapes the attitudes of its member studios.

“Ownership culture” is no joke. If studio behaviour was purely rooted in cynicism and greed, it would look different: twenty years ago they would have seen the changing winds and by now they’d be experts at rapidly adapting their business model to the online world. Instead they are fixated on this delusional idea that the best way to make money is to enforce copyright, and it’s not working — but it persists because the culture of ownership is so deeply engrained.

So now the MPAA keeps them all trapped. Any one studio could enter revolution-mode and update itself for the times at the hands of one smart, savvy CEO with the guts to try it. But what are the odds of that happening at six studios at once? It won’t. And if one tries, the other five become its united opponents. And so the culture of ownership lives on, with the whole industry orbiting the MPAA.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Potential

The bigger an organization is, the more difficult it is to change anything. A lot is riding on just the status quo of the organization. If things took a dip, people might lose their jobs. The stock price might go down a bit which would cause the sky to fall.

So any change that involves risk becomes less and less acceptable the bigger an organization becomes. Especially a change that seems radical or the opposite of what the business is or seems to be built on. Such a radical change seems to question the very principles of nature. The railroads should have recognized they were in the transportation business and embraced trucking and air freight.

A startup can take big risks. They can even completely change their business plan and succeed where they would have failed. A startup can also question the existing way things are.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Potential

“A startup can take big risks. They can even completely change their business plan and succeed where they would have failed. A startup can also question the existing way things are.”

Indeed yes! This is the small company’s superpower. It’s also why most true innovations come from small companies, not big ones.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Potential

I hope you’re aware of the fact that the MPAA is composed of those who support the monetary cause of Hollywood and not by ” mothers and teachers” like they claim…They’re more secretive than the NSA in other words…Watch a few videos of their employes walking in and out of their headquarters and you’ll see how anal they are about keeping their secrecy…

Anonymous Coward says:

it’s about time! i cant understand why it has taken the studios so long to realise that the only thing the MPAA is doing, Dodd in particular, is feathering his own nest! think of the money spent and got back over the years and to what extent has file sharing been stopped. the studious would be so much better off if every time they come across a site that is allowing downloads of their stuff, music or movies or whatever, if they actually struck sensible deals with the admins etc and left the site up! they haven’t managed to put up a single site that is worth a toss! every ‘alternative’ site remains on the net because it puts out quality releases, which the industries seem unable to match plus they have the newest stuff up before the execs have had chance for a crap, shave and shampoo! is it any wonder why people flock to these sites? the industries dont deserve to have any success at all in comparison. if they were to use brains instead of brawn and agreed sensible terms and even more sensible prices, the sites would stay up, the customers would be willing to pay say $5 a movie, $2.5-$3 for an album, so they wouldn’t feel ripped off and alienated, as they feel atm, despising the entertainment industries to hell and the industries would be getting monies in! everyone happy! simples!!

Violynne (profile) says:

Studios should have realize the MPAA was past its prime when it placed FBI warnings on purchased movies.

Not only did the logo infuriate the then-director of the FBI, the message still continues to lie to the American public regarding the FBI’s role.

Most notably, people don’t understand what criminal copyright infringement means, and thus, simply believe the message includes them.

Even if the studios ditched the MPAA, it doesn’t mean things will change. UltraViolet has nothing to do with the MPAA and is one of the worst forms of DRM in the movie industry.

If this industry wants to adapt, there are three easy steps to do it, and laugh all the way to the bank:
1) Treat your customers as if they paid, not “stolen”, the movie.

2) Create a single website to stream movies. We don’t go to specific theaters to see a specific distributor’s movie, so it makes sense we go to one website to stream movies.

3) LOWER. THE. DAMN. PRICE. If this needs explaining, maybe it’s the studios that need to be replaced.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Do not create a single website to stream movies. Not any more than there is only one theater chain. Create an industry standard protocol for browsing, searching and streaming movies. That way, there can be competition amongst streaming platforms — but only one “app” or “smart tv” standard in your living room to browse them all. Just as in the previous millennium a single TV could tune in all channels.

The single website idea is like saying let’s have a single television network, and it must be NBC, to provide all television content.

As for lowering the price, that could be done by making less expensive and more risky movies. Stop making $200 Million remakes of sequels of old movies that were based on even older TV shows. Invest in original movies and programming. Yes, some of it will fail. Even if the business is about making money, that only continues to happen if you are also making art.

Anonymous Coward says:

This might have been welcome news a decade ago. I’ll tell you straight up, I’m pissed at them. Both the MPAA and the RIAA. They’ve changed so many laws, become such pna’s to using the products they are supposedly protecting, and generally hung as a threat to whoever used the internet.

Today I no longer care about what hot movie is coming out. I couldn’t name you one singer from these times and I’m happy with that. Funny I went from buying $500 to $600 a year to nothing. I’ve had plenty enough time now without them that I’ve developed a totally different lifestyle. I’ve thoroughly disconnected from the Hollywood hype machine and I have no plans on returning. The damage has been done. They’ve totally lost a customer.

Dave Cortright says:

How much is it worth to the MPAA to keep Sony?

In a behind-the-scenes drama, the Sony Pictures chairman Michael Lynton last month told industry colleagues of a plan to withdraw from the movie trade organization, …[but] the MPAA convinced Sony to stay in…

I wonder how much the MPAA is now paying Sony to keep them in their racket. It would look very bad to have them lose such a prominent member.

Anonymous Coward says:

I hope this is a sign to a more forward less autoritarian thinking approach, i dont hold up much hope……..but if it does, i do hope they spare the time to look for all the individual lives they’ve effectively ruined by putting people in jail over something many people already knew was not criminal behaviour……i do hope they look pass their pride and call for all those case to be re-looked at once these non crimes have been established, and that its not ignored, or left as it is for precedents sake incase they need it in future……..

Anonymous Coward says:

bang per buck

If Hollywood’s main goal is to wage war against filesharing, that task doesn’t require a CEO making a multi-million dollar salary and a bloated bureaucracy, sitting on some of the most expensive real estate in the nation.

As an anti-filesharing organization, the Dutch group BREIN has made a much greater impact on the P2P landscape than the MPAA, and has done so at a tiny fraction of the MPAA’s budget.

Such an arrangement could be the future trend — Hollywood financing small local anti-P2P outfits in various countries around the world, rather than spending a ton of money lobbying Washington politicians and bureaucrats to rubber-stamp names on a list and hope that other countries panic at the sight.

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