by Timothy Lee
Thu, Dec 13th 2007 1:09pm
Paramount is touting the release of "Jackass 2.5" as the first studio-backed film to be released online. In a lot of ways, Jackass seems like an ideal candidate for an experiment like this: it's a series of short vignettes that would likely get tiresome in a single sitting anyway, so it makes good sense to allow users to watch it in segments online. It was extremely cheap to produce, so there's little reason to worry about cannibalizing sales in other channels. And it's precisely the kind of gag humor that I can see being a good candidate for viral distribution. Unfortunately, the Times story suggests that Paramount's release strategy is rather confused. The video will apparently be released exclusively through Blockbuster's Movielink site for the first week, suggesting that Mac users like me won't be welcome. A week later, the movie will apparently be offered for purchase for $10-15 online or $30 on DVD. And then starting in January, it will once again be available for free on sites like Joost. It's rather confusing. The idea seems to be to experiment with different outlets to see which ones generate the most traffic, but it's hard to imagine why anyone would pay $10 for an iTunes download of a movie that had been available for free viewing (on Movielink) a week earlier and would be available for free viewing again (on Joost) a week later. It seems like all these format switches are just going to confuse and annoy viewers, who have to keep track of which sites will have the video on which weeks. Paramount apparently does know how to distribute video in an embeddable Flash-based format. It seems like it would have made more sense to simply distribute the whole movie that way from the outset. Or even better, given that Jackass isn't so much a coherent movie as a series of discrete segments, an even better idea might have been to release one segment per day over a period of weeks, increasing the chances of viral distribution and getting users in the habit of visiting the site regularly. That would generate a lot more buzz, and it would still leave them the option of selling a DVD of the whole thing once the final clip had been released. So Paramount deserves some credit for experimenting with new distribution strategies, but they still don't seem to quite get Internet distribution.
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