Say That Again

by Carlo Longino

Movie Exec Says Compressed Release Windows 'Not Technically Possible'

from the well-we're-still-digitizing-movies-on-a-486-DX-2-so-it-takes-a-while dept

You really have to admire the movie industry's ability to stick its head in the sand and hold it under for so long. They keep churning out content that's ridiculously expensive to produce, then, instead of melding it into a wide range products that people actually want to buy, they cling to business models built on restricting consumers' access to content and drive would-be customers to illegitimate sources. So forgive me for seeing the headline "Technology 'can beat film piracy'" and assuming the story was about another harebrained DRM scheme, when in actuality, the UK film minister was telling the movie industry that they need to take advantage of digital distribution to compete with piracy by offering people more ways to pay for movies, in particular making them available to download or on-demand services at the same time they're in theaters. The idea of compressing release windows certainly isn't new, but every time it's mentioned, movie theaters and studios throw a fit. So the response to the minister from a Sony Pictures UK is rather inevitable: "At the moment it's probably not technically possible." Huh? It's not technically possible to get a movie on to multiple platforms the same day it's released to theaters? That's sort of funny, because smaller independent movie companies don't seem to have any problem figuring it out, like IFC Entertainment, or Mark Cuban and Steven Soderbergh, or Morgan Freeman and Intel (well, we'll assume they'll actually do it, instead of just announcing it again). Maybe in some sense the guy is right -- it's not technically possible for the movie studios because it requires some effort, just like all the other things they could have done to compete with piracy instead of just trying to lock their content down even further. But, on the other hand, if by "not technically possible" he means "it's not technically possible for us to release movies for download without burdening them with copy protection that makes them wholly unattractive", perhaps he was right.

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  1. identicon
    A chicken passeth by, 13 Oct 2006 @ 6:29am

    "It's not technically possible" NOT because they don't have the protection. They don't have the infrastructure to ensure that protection stays, and no sharing takes place.

    They could very well release it unprotected - but these days, unprotected media is as dirty as unprotected sex.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Oct 2006 @ 6:36am

    Or, maybe the movie exec ment that its not technically possible to distribute the movie the same day its in the studio because by doing so, the studios would really piss off their best customer (or actually violate some contract or agreement), which is actually the movie theater owners.

    You seem to think that the movie studios own the theaters, but they don't. Allowing immediate download of a movie as soon as its out would hurt the theaters. Book publishers do the same thing, you see a book in hard copy, then later it comes out in paperback. How many people would buy the expensive hard copy if a paperback was available at a lower cost? You don't think the studio's would love to just beam their films to theaters instead of sending them the tapes? The tapes cost about $10,000. Only problem is that a lot of theaters don't have projectors that would be able to show them, and theater owners don't want to pay to upgrade their projectors.

    I know this place likes to talk about technology, but why do you seem to ignore basic business models? It isn't a good idea to cannibalize your own products just because technology would allow you to do so. VoIP is a perfect example of this. Why should Verizon hurry to offer VoIP when a lot of their customers are not ready to accept VoIP yet. Why should Verizon try to convince people to not only buy VoIP but to buy it from Verizon. Let the media and Vonage spend money convincing the mass that VoIP is a serious phone replacement. Then when the market is ready, they can start pushing VoiceWing. If the cable companies were not successful selling VoIP, the telco's wouldn't even bother with it. Now their only response is to offer fiber and attack on the video front. Telco's didn't introduce VoIP until it made business sense to do so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Jamie, 13 Oct 2006 @ 6:46am


    "I know this place likes to talk about technology, but why do you seem to ignore basic business models? It isn't a good idea to cannibalize your own products just because technology would allow you to do so. "

    It is a good idea when the current business model is already beginning to fail. That's what the movie studios don't seem to understand. The current business model that counts on people paying for content two or three times, and counts on them not being able to copy/transfer the content to other mediums is dead or at least dying.
    The industry needs to look at the current models and try to adapt them to the new technologies and new habits of their consumers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Ivysport, 13 Oct 2006 @ 7:18am

    The Brits are Technically Juvenile

    this coming from a Sony UK executive is no surprise. I've worked for two British media firms and both resisted change until it was too late.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Max, 13 Oct 2006 @ 7:25am

    Why they don't do it

    There actually are reasons for the studio execs and their peers to stick their heads up their behinds and wonder why things have gotten so dark and smelly lataly. The facts to consider are

    1) Historically the studios have gotten away with selling overpriced products, due to the way the old business model functioned.
    2) Switching to any other business model will, in the short term, cost them a lot of money from lost revenue streams.
    3) Sticking to the old ways will, in the long term, cost them even more money (they will not even survive)
    4) Shareholders don't like long term gambles, they want money now. Studio execs are not visionary people, they are suits who do as they are told.
    5) Viola! Everybody keep going in the same old path, and hope something will give (and hopefully before they go out of business)

    What is required is a capitalist with visions, who dare to gamble on how the future of the movie industry is going to play out. Only such a person can make this happen. Never, ever expect a high paid spreadsheet jockey like a movie studio exec to take such a bold step.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Crosbie Fitch (profile), 13 Oct 2006 @ 7:30am

    Hey. Watch who you're calling juvenile!

    I'm a Brit, and you should check some of my sites out for 'think-different' business models, e.g.

    I'm not trying to resist change. I'm trying to incite it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Darryl, 13 Oct 2006 @ 7:43am

    "Some gangs used film piracy to finance "some appalling organised crime around the world, which often reaches into terrorism", he added."

    Give us your money, or you're funding terrorism?


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    mockingbirdthewizard, 13 Oct 2006 @ 7:47am

    not technically possible

    on a lighter note than business models,
    this may be a case of unfamiliarity with technology on the part of an executive (pause for collective gasp)
    although I do lean towards the idea that perhapse the person mis-spoke and meant not technically possible while keeping copies from being made easily.

    if you take his words at face value, you'd think he has never heard that some top movies are on the net BEFORE they are released in theaters.
    that version of star wars ep 3 I saw at some party with the timer running along the top of the screen...
    and I bet that guy would have still payed $8 to download it before it hit the theaters.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Oct 2006 @ 7:52am

    Don't believe the hype. Box office attendance is higher today than it was in 1997. Box office sales are higher today than they were in 1997. Sure, they peaked in 04, but still higher than in the past.

    Also, Walmart accounts for 40% of all DVD sales in the US, you think they will stand to have digital copies distributed at a cheaper price? Does anyone want to have that conversation with Walmart? Walmart always has the best deal, or they won't carry your product.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Beefcake, 13 Oct 2006 @ 8:05am

    "Technically" isn't necessarily "technical"

    Not that I believe for a second anything that spews from the cavernous maw of a movie exec, but perhaps in this case "technically" was being used idiosyncratically.

    Like responding to someone else's VP who gives you a hard time about something with "technically, I don't work for you".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Baddhabit, 13 Oct 2006 @ 8:18am

    Dodged a bullet

    I agree with Number 5... but In all honestly I thought for sure #6 .. brit.. was going to say.. come visit my porn site for free xxx.... sigh... Dodged the bullet on that one...


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    James M., 13 Oct 2006 @ 8:26am

    Re: BS

    So you are assuming a few things here.

    First assumption - Innovation doesn't create; jobs, capital and new ways to create more of the same.

    Second assumption - What differentiates movie theaters from what we can now call "home theaters". Why do we go to movies, get out of the house, see the big movie on the really big screen. excellent sound, etc.

    None of the above would be in place if others weren't at the same time innovating the "Movie experience". Studios, distrubution, theaters need to embrace this and get ready.

    Sidenote: As you are leaving a good movie make the DVD available for sale at a discount price right in the theater. (Ticket stub required)

    Also start making better movies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Aaron, 13 Oct 2006 @ 8:32am


    Actually, I prefer hard cover books over the soft cover releases - its a matter of diversity... The people that want to watch a movie at home are generally not the same people that will go to the theater the weekend of release.

    As for piracy, you have to remember human nature, people will often take the path of least resistance - if it's easier to legitimately buy and download a movie verses finding the right torrent or newsgroup to download from, more people will do so. But thats not what any of this is really about anyway, look at the more recent trend, selling a TV sitcom season on DVD for around $100 US.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Duh, 13 Oct 2006 @ 8:46am

    If a kid seeing a preview viewing of a movie with a video camera can get it onto the internet with his crappy home PC can have it on the internet the same day the movie is released, then so can the studios!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Oct 2006 @ 9:07am

    there are 3 phases to making movies. production, distribution, and exposition. before, the studios controlled all 3 aspects of movie production. they decided what movie to make. they decided how and whwere to distribute the movie. and third, they owned the theaters, thus ensuring their movies were shown.

    the gov't stepped in saying the studios had monopoly. they need to break something. so what did they do? well, if they didn't produce, they woudln't have ajob. and if they didn't distribute, they'd have an extreamly tough job, so they just sold their theaters. however they still have a "small choke" on theaters. because most films aren't big producesr, or even loss leaders, the studios say you can't have BIG move A (hyped to sell $$$$$) w/o taking in small movie B (that may even lose money). so it's all about control. they want to keep their money. they've had it for so long, they want to keep it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Oct 2006 @ 9:25am

    "they want to keep their money. They've had it for so long, they want to keep it"

    Well, don't you? You go around giving up your money for not benefit?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    u no, 13 Oct 2006 @ 9:40am


    Why not release a high quality version of the movie for download after the first weekend in the theaters? That seems simple engough. ofcourse the kid who takes his camorder into the theater on opening night will have a copy on the internet before that, but it will be a crappy one. seems simple neough to me, but i hava a bad habbit of overlooking the obvious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Petréa Mitchell, 13 Oct 2006 @ 12:32pm

    What I find interesting about this article is that the film minister accepts the studios' claims-- film piracy funds terrorism, there exists a magic encryption scheme which can totally stop copying-- and yet he *still* says the way to really stop piracy cold is to sell release-day copies.

    Also, I think this is the first time I've seen "camcorder" turned into a verb.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    SimonTek (profile), 13 Oct 2006 @ 3:04pm

    Curious. Realistically, The average home user is how likely to pirate a movie? Btw You do realize that the movies are completely digital these days, converting them to Windows format doesn't take much. Although I rather see an open video format get it, cause Some of us do not run windows, we use linux, unix, macs, and other OS's.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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