MPAA: Idiots At The Helm

or: How the MPAA could easily increase profits and turn the tide of P2P to work in their favor

Thu Jan 11 21:16:47 EDT 2007


An open letter to the closed-minded Studios:

I love movies. That doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who has skimmed over any of my witless, rambling reviews here. I've gone so far as to set up a used little projector, some wireless headphones, and an old, comfy chair in my living room. I wouldn't call it a real home theater, but it's a start. And I still go to theaters, as poor as the experience often is. There's just no substitute for the massive screen and the awesome power of the sound they have.

I have disposable income with your (studio's) name on it, and a shelf full of DVD's I never watch to prove it.

I hate waiting. That awful period between when a film is in theaters, until it's on DVD can be a drag. Ask any movie nut. And you guys (the studios) are losing heaps of money during this time. Third parties are paid to produce reports with grossly exaggerated figures claiming such rubbish, e.g. Piracy is a 100-billion-dollar-a-year industry. Bullshit. But at least you acknowledge you're losing money, even if you have no idea how much.

Now, these dinosaurs aren't about to go and change their business model, or risk distancing themselves from the theater owners whom they so desperately need, at least for now. Regardless, here's one way the Studios could unfuck themselves and increase profits and simultaneously improve the consumer's experience. Because the mega cinema near me sucks ass 80% of the time. Raise minimum wage, why?! These theater zombie employees are already scraping the bottom of the gene pool barrel and are way over paid...</rant> <not really>

Anyhow, here's a crazy idea of how to A) make money, B) win back (repeat) customers, and C) reduce open file sharing:

  1. Less than 30 days after theatrical release, when the film is hitting mom & pop movie houses and revenues are dropping steadily, release a low-resolution, (iPod, mobile phone, both, my option, etc.), full-length version of the film. Low resolution means low price, and you could even have it expire, say, a couple of months after the DVD is planned to release. $5 for a 90-day, limited playback, low-res version of the film, no more than 300 to 350 MB and 240p. Simple.

  2. More than 30 days before the DVD comes out, as the puppy hits pay-per-view cable, release a higher quality version, similar to what you'd (hypothetically) see on P2P today, but again with some kind of light DRM. I said light, dammit. Again, limit playback and have it expire by date. Perhaps up to 10 playbacks, on 3 machines, for 6 months. It could/would phone home to check that periodically. Not more than $10, 480P and under 750 MB. You've got this young market with money to burn and the hardware to play this shit back. You're missing revenue here, you bunch of brainless, backwards, half-wits!

  3. Less than 30 days, (ideally under two weeks), after the DVD and HD-DVD/Blu-Ray (bullshit competing formats make martums' head asplode), release a HD P2P DRM'ed version of the film, (H.323, divx, xvid, whatever), with the fancy surround sound and all that jazz, high-quality and fat-fucking-size. P2P version, (I know these turkeys won't do it without DRM, and who can blame them. Well, that's another rant). Not more than $20, and I get to play this as often as I bloody well want, and it never expires. It'll be over a couple of gigs, but who cares.

Is it perfect? No. Can people still make copies and unlawfully share it? Perhaps. Does it limit that possibility and create another reasonable avenue for consumers to lawfully purchase a decent product for a fair price? Bet your ass.

Is it complicated? Hardly. Perhaps it seems so to some boardroom dinosaur, but not to an experienced developer, (of which I would never purport to be...). I bet the studios already employ staff capable of making this work. My nephews could do this with their eyes shut, (perfect for them now that there's some bullshit DRM merit badge). Besides, Apple would be happy to do all of this for a nice cut. QuickTime is more than mature enough. However, iTunes won't cut it here for file transfer. BitTorrent is by far the best way to distribute files of these sizes in a timely manner.

Here are the key points:

Now watch this: I just saw a movie I loved. Twice. In theaters. I *have* to see it again. I'm hooked. There's that temporary emotional high, and I'm still on the honeymoon. So I drop $5 and buy it for my tiny-screened portable media player. I watch it while waiting somewhere once or twice, but that's not enough. Now I want to see it at home on a bigger screen, so I spring $10 for the 480p. Satisfying, but still hungry. I'm definitely going for either the DVD or the HD download (both $20). Instead of getting just a couple bucks out of me at the box office, you've easily netted over $20 by exploiting my movie addiction. How many other addicts of varying degree are out there? (What's more, for those who are sick of the theaters and refuse to go because they suck, you're covering all your bases by giving them more options to see the film before next year's DVD release. While the memory of the trailer is fresh and their friends are still chatting about it--more opportunities to rope in (formerly) absent moviegoers, or now really, movie-getters, or movie-downers, bah, whatever).

Imagine netting over $20 for 15% of the box office (suckers) viewers that went to see Casino Royale. (Apple will tell you that iTunes is capable of penetrating far more of the market than that...). Hell yes I would watch that a bunch of times. All this even before taking into account DVD sales and pay-per-view.

This isn't rocket science. (and we wouldn't want these slow-moving, outdated behemoths doing that, now would we?)

Is it likely that somebody's going to sit next to their buddy and watch all or part of a flick on their iPod? Sure. But it's low res and the experience is minimally-satisfying (try listening to a tune with one ear bud). Even if somebody goes to a friend's house and watches the 480p (medium) version, the studio's are still increasing profits. No different than when Tom and Dick go to Harry's pad to watch Jessica Biel's latest documentary DVD. Yeah, fsck, who are we kidding...

Can the Studios change and adapt to meet a new market? Not likely. Much like newspapers, they don't know how to pull their archaic heads out of their asses and make this intarweb thing work for them. All of the witty IBM eCommerce commercials in the world won't get it through their thick skulls: There's gold in them there hills. Ripe for the picking. You bloody fucktards.

A teeny bit of innovation could result in a sizable chunk of profits. And --AND-- you'd be pulling people away from using open P2P (illegal is such an ugly word, to quote Bill Gates, who admitted to having used same...). For a reasonable fee, some flexibility and convenience, people will get this stuff legally. The question is:

Will you ever get it?

BitTorrent has a few existing partnerships and several new under way which will offer media from BitTorrent's store. This is a good start, but who the fuck cares about downloading older shit? The market wants to download what's new, what's fresh. We're not looking to download Rocky 2 for more than the price of a DVD. These new partnerships aren't even the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Ah, icebergs. Run, Kate, run! Jack! Oh noez!

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