Hollywood Removing Hit Movies From Apple, Netflix

from the stupidity-knows-no-bounds dept

Some days you just wonder if entertainment execs wake up in the morning planning to shoot themselves in their collective foot. The latest display of entertainment exec short-sightedness is that the Hollywood Studios have apparently forced both the Apple iTunes store and Netflix's download store to remove certain movies just as they're getting close to being available for TV. As you probably already know, Hollywood makes a lot of money through a "windowing" system, where they release movies in different formats at different times: theaters, special locations (airplanes, hotels), DVD, cable and finally network TV. Of course, they're working on adding some more tiers to this as well, but apparently they convinced these online download stores that they need to kill certain movies as the timing reaches where the movies can appear on TV.

The studios' myopic reasoning is that TV broadcasters pay a lot of money for those rights, and they don't want to piss them off: "It wouldn't make any business sense to do it any other way," claiming that allowing the videos to be downloaded via these online stores would kill some of its biggest money makers. Of course, this makes no sense. The movies are already released on DVD and the studios don't prevent Blockbuster or Netflix from offering the physical DVD for rent, so why do that with the download version? If people really want to download these movies, they're more likely to just go get them from an unauthorized site, rather than bother to watch the network broadcast version (which, given recent MPAA statements, they'll probably try to prevent you from recording via your DVR anyway). If TV networks have been willing to pay good money for the broadcasting rights all these years while DVDs and unauthorized downloads have been available, are they really suddenly going to stop paying because legal downloads are available? Unlikely.

So what are we left with instead? A bunch of consumers really pissed off at the movie studios yet again. One of these days movie studio execs will discover that business models are much harder to implement when a large percentage of your customers hate you.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 10th, 2008 @ 12:53pm


    So, instead of allowing downloads (which are relatively hard to capture to disc) they are going to force everyone who doesn't catch a particular broadcast to get a (so simple to rip that my grandma could do it) DVD?

    I'm starting to wonder if the top tier execs at these companies aren't actually copyfighters.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 1:04pm

    They are all whiny brats

    Here's a novel concept: If you want to quit making movies available, I quit watching them! Imagine that! It's truly a breakthrough concept.

    Windowing doesn't work anymore. A few decades ago, it worked when the producers had to physically transfer the film to tape. But today, many movies are distributed to theaters on hard drives. When I learned of this, I quit observing these windows. They are all whiny brats.

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

  3. identicon
    Witty Nickname, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 1:18pm

    "If people really want to download these movies, they're more likely to just go get them from an unauthorized site"

    I hear this sentiment a lot, and I have to respectfully disagree. There are a small minority of people who will search for it illegally, but I would not say 'more than likely.' I am a computer nerd, I could figure out how to download a movie if I wanted, but I never have because I will stay within the confines of the law. I have watched movies stream on Netflix, but I wouldn't download illegally.

    This is not just some holier than thou sentiment, the cost of getting a physical DVD from Netflix or Redbox is much lower than the cost and annoyance of computer viruses or a lawsuit from the MPAA.

    I do not disagree with your sentiment that the studios are dumb for doing this, but you say often people are willing to break the law for their own convenience, that is often untrue.

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

  4. identicon
    Peavey, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 1:21pm

    screw it

    I say, just bypass the download services all together if they're going to toy with us so much.

    I'll just go buy a 1 TB drive for $100, build my queue up on Netflix, then rip the movies to my hard drive and send them back.

    Then, when I want to watch a certain movie down the line I'll just look it up on my drive and stream it myself.

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

  5. identicon
    Evil Mike, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 1:22pm


    Opinions are nice.

    Well thought out, grammatically correct opinions like yours are even better.

    So... Do you have any facts to back up your opinions?

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

  6. identicon
    agreewithwitty, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 1:25pm


    Firstly, yes, I agree with Witty Nickname... Secondly, how much longer until the studios fly private jets to Washington and beg for handouts too?

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 1:31pm

    I've always thought that the movie business needed to hire more people who understood retail marketing. What about this idea, they could make boatloads of money:

    - Offer "official" downloads, as part of it, customer gets a coupon for a free movie ticket.
    - At the movie theater, have basic, stripped down versions of the movie people just watched, also have copies of the CD for those who liked the music.
    - Included in the movie theater release, include a coupon for $ off of the "full" release that includes all the special features, hi-def formatting, etc.
    - In the "full" release, offer a coupon for a free download (see first point), or, $ off of the special director's special edition, only available to members of their "special club" that has a yearly fee of x dollars.

    You've just sold them the same movie up to 5 times and they're happy to do so, instead of claiming everyone as a thief and the business going to hell.

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

  8. identicon
    reaperman0, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 1:47pm


    Selling copies of the movies at the theater is a really good idea. Selling the soundtrack is an even better idea. I have an addition - if the movie is based on a book (Harry Potter, Twilight, etc.), offer the book for sale as well. You sir (or ma'am) are brillant. Want to start a media company with me? I think we'd go far...

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

  9. identicon
    TEA-Time, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 1:48pm

    Just more proof that there is a humorous side to suicide.

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

  10. identicon
    Just me, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 1:50pm

    Turds on a screen

    I guess if there was a movie actually worth watching it would make this subject interesting. IMHO they are all turds on a screen lately......

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

  11. icon
    chris (profile), Dec 10th, 2008 @ 1:52pm


    There are a small minority of people who will search for it illegally, but I would not say 'more than likely.'

    while the number might be low now, it is growing. with each new restriction of choice, reduction of availability, and with each increase in price, the number of illegal downloaders increases.

    the tools keep getting easier and safer. the communities keep getting larger and better organized. the studios will continue to be more and more restrictive and controlling.

    in time, the studios will have it's legitimate users register and pay for every single viewing while piracy will be as easy as typing a search term into the "omnibar" before you leave for work/school/bed and a still warm DVD will be waiting for you in the ejected tray of your DVD burner when you get home/wake up.

    so it may not be "more than likely" at this moment, but each move by the media companies pushes users in that direction. it's a pretty short trip from "not likely" to "standard practice".

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

  12. identicon
    Tim, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 1:54pm


    While reading this the thought came to me...there WILL be a day when I unplug my Tivo and disconnect my cable from the TV because of these execs.

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

  13. identicon
    interval, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 2:03pm

    Re: They are all whiny brats

    Wah? So if films were distributed by some other means (which would constitute copying from a hard drive to some other media) that would make a difference to you?

    You know that all modern films are post-edited digitally, right?

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

  14. identicon
    interval, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 2:06pm

    Re: screw it

    "I'll just go buy a 1 TB drive for $100, build my queue up on Netflix, then rip the movies to my hard drive and send them back."

    Use Redbox if its in your area. Much cheaper and more convenient than Netflix.

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 2:21pm

    So what are we left with instead? A bunch of consumers really pissed off at the movie studios yet again.

    And you know this because you have been talking with the Complaints Departments at Apple and Netflix?

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 2:33pm


    Doesn't matter to me. I buy DVDs and rip them (per fair use) onto my various playback devices.

    What I'm buying is the right to view the data, any way I please.

    I re-emphasize: I *buy* them.

    A rental agreement (contract) is generally a single use limited time view of the data.

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

  17. identicon
    You never know, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 2:56pm

    Come on guys, CD's are dead, DVDs are dieing, Solid state storage and Hard drives are what is being used now and with that direct downloads are the way of the future. However Hollyweird stands to loose a lot of revenue in movie sales as this trend catches on. They are trying to suppress progress to keep a dying industry alive as long as they can milk it, or at least until they can figure how to get a premium price for themselves...

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

  18. identicon
    Even less witty nickname, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 2:57pm


    I don't even know why Mike suggested that, as it's got nothing to do with the studio's ridiculous "windowing". Whether or not you download your movie illegally or rent the disc, neither has any effect on whether or not broadcast TV or cable makes money on it. Why remove the option to download it legally during that "window" when it's still available, both legally AND illegally during that time? Once again, just like DRM, they're only screwing over legitimate users...

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

  19. identicon
    Leon, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 3:16pm

    No Roku, thanks

    I had been considering getting one of those Roku units to view the Watch Instantly movies on Netflix. Well, lo' and behold, half of my instant queue movies are unavailable on 12/31/08 or 1/1/09.

    I guess I won't be buying one.

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

  20. icon
    Mike (profile), Dec 10th, 2008 @ 3:17pm


    And you know this because you have been talking with the Complaints Departments at Apple and Netflix?

    No. Because I know plenty of people who use both of those services who *are* pissed off.

    Do you honestly believe that only those who complain officially to Netflix or Apple are those who count? You can't be serious...

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

  21. identicon
    Darrin, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 3:30pm

    poor customer service

    It is really an inconvenience and poor service to their ultimate customer the viewing public.

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

  22. icon
    BJC (profile), Dec 10th, 2008 @ 3:49pm

    I would say selling movies, CDs, and books at the theatre might generate some income from the Disneyland, this-is-so-awesome, must-buy-souvenirs-now crowd (AKA chicks) but most consumers won't go for it.

    What if when buying a movie ticket, I was given a code that showed I have purchased a license to enjoy said content whenever, where-ever and how-ever I see fit? The studios get their money and I get the material I paid for. If I want the Bluray, I'm sure I would pay a fee for the media just the same as I would pay for bandwidth to download it.

    Content providers need to start thinking in terms of a universal license to their materials. I know during this digital transition period it must be great to have suckers pay for the same content several times over but that business model is really not sustainable.

    If I take the family to see Wall-E or High School Musical at the theatre and it is as good as expected, you know we're going to buy or download the DVD/Bluray and soundtrack anyway. Why not collect those payments up front and treat me as a valued partner rather than a potential criminal?

    Aren't many small payments better than much fewer larger ones? Put the lawyers out of business by licensing your content per consumer rather than per media.

    All preceding ideas are © Copyright 2008 BJC. All rights reserved. Contact for licensing.

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

  23. identicon
    Qazulight, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 4:46pm

    TV? Whats TV?

    I borrowed season 1 through 3 ofost. Its good. I loaned the first couple of seasons of The 4400 to a friend and am thinking of actaully spending money on Heros.

    But watch TV? I don't even have an antenna.


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

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 5:13pm

    how can you possibly think that removing legal options doesn't significantly increase the likelihood of watching the movies.

    The netflix/appletv model is the future. That and hulu mean that DVRing is too much a hassle for me, and cable is way too expensive.

    The reality is businesses compete to provide the best product for the lowest price. Movies haven't had to compete for a long time. If the movie companies are too large to compete, they need to be broken up.

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

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 11:00pm

    until all media content is free, this type of thing will go on. at least the movie industry brought in lower priced dvd's early on rather unlike the record companies who are still trying to sell $18 cds at Best Buy.

    i don't have television or cable, i watch available webstreams, i watch youtube, hulu, mtv, vh1, netflix, cnn, msnbc, etc all online. i have no interest in owning/downloading anything, i just want to watch. like with rhapsody music service, they don't have everything either but they have enough to keep me satisfied, same with hulu/netflix/apple et.al. for me the expirations fall under the "they don't have everything" disclaimer in my head. i don't mind as long as there is enough that i do watch even though i pay for rhapsody, netflix, etc. and sometimes the internet doesn't work and OMG, i can't watch anything--that's kind of like an expiration date too.

    if i really must have it i will buy/rip/download illegally, i don't care.

    in the future, i'm sure, all media content will be free and directly beamed into our heads but right now i guess we will just have to deal with this latest crisis as best as we can.

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

  26. identicon
    Tod C, Dec 11th, 2008 @ 4:40am

    I think there is more to it

    Sounds like there's other stuff going on too. Too many of these supposedly "windowed" movies have been on DVD for years and TV (in some cases) for decades. Here is 27 out of my 113 movies -- not counting the 10+ that were scheduled to go off line earlier in December. Looks more like the networks are just messing with Netflix.

    Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man Dec 16, 2008
    Flash Gordon Dec 23, 2008
    Mad Max Dec 23, 2008
    The Land That Time Forgot Dec 29, 2008
    At the Earth's Core Dec 31, 2008
    The Vikings Dec 31, 2008
    Panic in Year Zero / The Last Man on Earth Dec 31, 2008

    all below Jan 01, 2009

    The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
    March of the Penguins
    2010: The Year We Make Contact
    Rebel Without a Cause: Special Edition
    Bringing Up Baby
    Escape from New York
    Kelly's Heroes
    Shall We Dance
    It Happened One Night
    Only You
    Support Your Local Sheriff
    The Cheap Detective
    2001: A Space Odyssey
    Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

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

  27. icon
    PaulT (profile), Dec 11th, 2008 @ 6:23am


    I disagree (opinions are great, aren't they?).

    People know that they can download movies for free at any time. What usually stops them (apart from a lack of technical knowledge) is a mixture of social morals and convenience. That is, most people still view downloading without paying as "wrong", and for many people it's still more convenient to watch via TV (and/or tape the movie for later) than download. When they do download, it's usually cheaper and/or easier to do so via Apple or Netflix than pirate, and easier to download than buy the DVD.

    By removing both the facility to time-shift movies and stream from Netflix, the studios are shooting themselves in the foot. The fact that the facility used to be offered free-of-charge makes people consider the content "free" (or already paid for by their cable bill or Netflix sub). Nobody has a moral problem downloading movies that were offered for free, and may in fact consider themselves in the moral right for doing so if, for example, their ability to tape a movie that's on while they're at work is removed arbitrarily or a movie disappears from their queue for no reason.

    Mike's point is this - what's the point? People who want to stream or download movies are increasingly not the same people who want to buy DVDs. It makes no sense to remove a method of accessing content (that pirates are still offering), when people are willing to pay for that service. The secret to beating "piracy" is to make the paid-for service more valuable, not less valuable.

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

  28. icon
    PaulT (profile), Dec 11th, 2008 @ 7:07am

    Re: Re:

    I've never understood why theaters wouldn't sell more merchandise. I remember as a kid buying a few books about the movies playing from the cinema before/after watching the movie (Indy/ToD and Back to the Future IIRC).

    Why wouldn't the extend to merchandise on all movies? If you're going to impulse buy the game, T-shirt, soundtrack album, book, etc. of a movie you enjoyed, surely it would be just after you've seen it? They'd only have to keep a few of each item for most movies to keep overheads low (or maybe strike a deal with the studios/manufacturer that they can be exclusive then sold on to retailers afterwards?), but it could be a lucrative deal for the theaters and studios alike.

    Then again, apparently they'd prefer to strip search people for contraband rather than improve the experience by kicking out people who talk over the movie, so customer satisfaction isn't their strong point.

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

  29. identicon
    LJSeinfeld, Dec 11th, 2008 @ 7:08am

    Pushing customers out the door

    So MPAA sanctioned hardware/software + paying = you get screwed.


    Premium File Host account/bittorrent + XBMC, Boxee, Myth, etc = you win.

    When are these idiots going to realize that penalizing paying customers is not good for business?

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

  30. identicon
    David McArthur, Dec 11th, 2008 @ 10:32am

    Starz, Disney Settle Dispute


    Starz Entertainment and Disney-ABC Domestic Television have settled a lawsuit—in which Starz accused Disney of violating its contract by providing movies to Internet retailers during windows guaranteed to the premium cable network—for undisclosed terms.

    Starz in March 2007 sued Disney's TV distribution unit, then called Buena Vista Television, alleging Disney violated the terms of their agreements by making movies like Cars and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest available through Apple's iTunes Store and other online outlets.


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

  31. identicon
    Steve Repman, Dec 11th, 2008 @ 4:53pm

    Refund and Pay

    I'm an avid reader of your RSS. I agree with all your articles re copyright etc.

    I live in a place in Asia where there are no cinemas.

    I waited almost 3 months before a good copy of a particular movie I wanted to view came out in Divx format over BitTorrent.

    After downloading I propped up to the TV, sipping on a screwdriver, to watch the well rated Sony Pictures production movie.

    What a load of codswallop it was. I couldn't watch it till the end, it was that bad.

    Had I gone to a cinema to watch it, would there be an offer of a refund? I doubt it very much.

    On a different note, of all the music I have pirated, I listen to about 10% of it. It takes more that a blast of each track to realise if its the music for you, or not. So as I decide on what to keep, I really would like to make a donation for the music I keep and enjoy. Where can I do that? I would easily part with $5-10 at the press of a button.

    The MPAA and the others (whos acronyms I forget) need to beam down to this planet to realise giving the customer what they want WILL make them money.

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

  32. identicon
    andrewstras, Dec 11th, 2008 @ 7:57pm

    watch movies

    Nice post. I agree 100%. here's some more info on watch movies online

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

  33. identicon
    jonmark4, Dec 15th, 2008 @ 4:55am

    Cheers for writing about this. FYI - here's some more info about watch movie online you might like!

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

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2008 @ 10:34pm

    Re: Re:

    Do you really think CD's are dead? When the CD dies I will no longer pay a single penny for music....ever.

    Some of you may settle for the 128 kbps crap you find on the itunes store, but i prefer 100% lossless music ripped from the original audio CD, it sounds much better.

    when the CD dies, so will the music industry. I dont care what band it is or how good the album is, if it is only released in 128 kbps AAC DRM laden Itunes store crap...I will never buy it.

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

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