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Friday, 11 January 2013

Illegal Streaming Is Shaping The Future Of Film Distribution

Amazon.com are offering a new feature which allows you to to listen to any CD you've ever bought from them, via streaming.

http://nyti.ms/WUabBu

"Variations on this have existed before, but they have often met resistance, if not litigation."

This is how modern distribution works. A few kids figure a way to bring music to the masses and the distributors panic and rush to court.

But years later, they follow the paradigm set by the youngsters. The youngsters who were catering to a future that the distributors were too reluctant and narrow-minded to see.

They thought Napster would literally kill music, but the evolution of distribution needed to happen. Any of you volunteering to give up your mp3s and iPods?

The same thing is happening with film right now. The distributors are trying to keep us in the dark ages. For example, the USA get cinema releases before the rest of the world, then gradually they come to places like the UK. Previously, there were various reasons for this, mostly to do with profit margins; but the key reason: the film prints! When you distributed movies the old way, the costs were huge!

Yesterday the Academy Award nominations came out. In the UK, we still haven't seen 'Zero Dark Thirty' or 'Lincoln', but there are perfect viewable copies online, available illegally.



It's about supply and demand. WE LOVE MOVIES AND WANT TO SEE THEM! People don't sit down and watch a film illegally because of criminal intent, it's because they want the joy of film for two hours. On Facebook, all my American friends and colleagues have seen 'Lincoln', they have strong opinions about it. I'm desperate to see it! Why are you making me wait? For every ticket buyer they win by holding a film back, they lose two more who will view it online. 

I wrote something like this before and a bunch of the comments criticised my viewpoint, saying I'm selfish and want my own way, basically that I'm just a greedy consumer. But that's not the point ----- the point is that distribution is still modelled on a structure that doesn't even exist anymore. Home Video is dying (in 2012 in the USA the rental market took $400million less than 2011). And disc sales are falling by 6% a year (that percentage will steeply rise in coming years). Videos spread online like wildfire in a way that the old formats never did and never will. 

Piracy via streaming is rife. Studios are trying to crack down and get sites closed. It's the same nonsense they tried with Napster, Limewire, Kazaa, iMesh, etc. These changes to distribution are happening for a reason.

You want us to spend two hours wages on a cinema ticket, and three hours worth on the popcorn. Then you want us to rent the DVD, then buy the DVD, then buy the Special Edition, then the Blu-Ray limited edition, then the bonus version and after that the anniversary disc.


But times are changing. The music industry thought YouTube would end music, but then they figured out how to monetize it. And Spotify seems revolutionary, yet Napster did it fifteen years ago!

We are actively partaking in the most exciting shift in distribution since the birth of cinema. Without question, we must pay for the art we consume; but the Studios and distributors need to get on board with the changes. The digital revolution puts power back in the hands of the people. You can no longer sell us formats that will quickly become obsolete. 


Yes, I love the cinema experience. Nearly everyone reading this does too. But the statistics and the rate of privacy prove that people want to stream from the comfort of their own home just as much, if not more. It's ridiculous to try and deny this simple fact. 

DISTRIBUTORS & FILM STUDIOS: Stop suing the innovators. In the future, all of our films will be streamed -- and, ironically, you'll be stealing all your ideas from the very people you took to court. 

Care to share?

6 comments:

  1. It's frustrating the stubbornness of the film industry to get up to date with how people want to watch film these days. Surely it's in their best interests to get their films seen by as many people as possible, in a way that's easy for them?

    The months in between US and UK film releases is painful. The likes of Django Unchained, Flight, Les Mis, Zero Dark Thirty - no wonder people turn to downloads.

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  2. The wait you have between films releasing here and coming to theaters over there makes no sense to me. You're right that the studios are signing their own death certificates by continuing to do it that way when anyone who knows how to Google can find those movies available to view online. Sometimes, I'll be really excited to see something in the theater, but then after I hear people talk about it for a month or so, my excitement wanes and I just decide to wait for the DVD to come out.

    I went to the movies for the first time in a long time a couple of days ago. It was so nice! I forgot how much different the viewing experience was as opposed to watching it from my couch. I like the smell of movie theaters.

    The cost of going to the theater has been prohibitive, especially when you factor in a $10/hour babysitter (SERIOUSLY. $10. For one kid), so I've been turning to Red Box. I also have HBO, Starz, and all those channels, so if I miss them on Redbox, I'll see them on cable, but I wish I could see them all in the theater.

    As far as streaming online goes, I would rather watch a DVD or Blu-ray than a digital copy, in most cases. The quality is just usually so much better, even if I stream it through my television.

    I do like that some studios (and indies) have been releasing films on PPV at the same time as they are released in the theater. It costs more than the $1/night Red Box rental, but it's considerably less than seeing it in the theater and you don't have to wait. I think *that* is the future of movie distribution. It's a good compromise, anyway!

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  3. Ditto on all accounts.

    To what Teri said about studio and indies being released on PPV, they should continue doing and also push it available for other countries.

    The US iTunes "Indie" section has movies such as Struck By Lightning, Fitzgerald Family Christmas that have opened in US and also pre-theatrical releases such as John Dies At The End, Charles Swan and Freeloaders.

    For this point, I'm too lazy to check if they are available in the UK store but they are not available at least in one of the Scandinavian countries.

    What it comes down to is will I buy US itunes gift card from ebay and give my money to someone in China or wherever and buy the movies from US Itunes which is still illegal as I have a fake address and name in my US iTunes account as you cannot use different country store with your actual information and credit card or do I save my money and download them illegally from torrent sites.

    In both cases, I'm doing illegal things. As opposed to those indies being released on this Scandinavian iTunes store and I could pay 5-17 € per movie (rent or buy, SD or HD).

    The positive changes are happening with television. Recently both Netflix and HBO streaming services were launched in Scandinavia (yes, that is right, Netflix is a shiny and new thing in the late 2012 Scandinavian world).

    Today marks the first time we are able to watch a US show (even with local subtitles!) without downloading it within 24 hours it premiered in US. Banshee premiered yesterday in the States and people from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark are able to watch it on Saturday (the episode was available afternoon) via HBO Nordic who have deals with Starz and Cinemax as well. The same will be for the new seasons of Girls and Enlightened that premiere on Sunday and will be available on Monday with local subtitles.

    On the Netflix side of things, House of Cards is the 2nd show that we can enjoy fully legally right from the start.

    Both instances, HBO Nordic shows and Netflix originals have something in common - quality and cable/subscription. Clearly it will take time when we are able to legally watch network shows but I have faith that day will come. What type of changes are needed for that to happen (distribution, economic, big US corporations possibly buying smaller companies in Europe and elsewhere etc), that's a whole new topic.

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  4. "Clearly it will take time when we are able to legally watch network shows" * CORRECTION: within 24 hours.

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  5. Personally I don't find an ecstatic urge to stream. I like the experience of going to the movies. I want to get out of the house and put money towards a movie I feel I'll like.

    Part of me feels like we're just getting lazier. All these avenues online to find out if a movie is good or not, and most people just don't want to investigate or decide if it would be worth their time and money. Like tweets and facebook posts, they want movies to come to them all the time so they don't have to do anything.

    I'm frustrated with movie blogs too that review ten brand new movies in a row. With as pointed out the cost of going to the movies is high - and there's no understanding behind how they saw it (if they went to a special screening, saw it at a matinee, Netflix, Redbox, etc.) It's blaringly obvious that they streamed it. They'll tell readers "I wouldn't spend money on this" - well you chose not to. Readers take that incentive and rarely ever go to the movies. If a movie is written positively, readers want to know how to watch from home for free.

    My whole generation wants everything for free. Don't work for it, spend money it, put time towards it. I'm the poorest of the poor film student and I still find a way to see a movie at a cinema. Because in five years time, cinemas are going to become the sad archaic American pass time when we actually left our houses to do something.

    Studios want to make money but they don't want illegal streaming. They should find a way to make streaming new movies at home without it costing $40 for one showing (Magic Mike or some blockbuster movie cost that much this summer to watch On Demand).

    And I think people need to get a tighter grip on their patience and anticipation too. It's not the end of the world if a movie isn't in your theater right away. When I didn't think Perks of Being A Wallflower was going to be at my theater, I didn't lose it or go look for an illegal stream so I could HAVE it right now. I waited and eventually it was playing near my area, so I saw it regardless if my friends had already seen it and that was all they were talking about.

    When it comes to dvds, we all can make up our own minds to what collection we want.

    Special edition dvds are used to make people feel like they are in the know with "new footage and features". Harry Potter has a regular edition, special edition, blu ray, special blu ray, ultimate edition, blu ray ultimate edition, and then the ultimate collection in regular, bluray and digital. And hardly any of the special features are really new. I have a regular special edition: it has the movie, and that's enough for me.

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  6. Love the points you made in this post. I know a lot of people in Taiwan end up just buying pirated copies of films for cheap or watching them online because they don't want to wait for the film to be released there, or they just want to watch in the comfort of their own homes.

    I like watching movies at home because obviously, it's convenient and I can marathon 3-4 movies at a time and consume much cheaper snacks. That's why I love Redbox--you go to the grocery store to pick up your snacks and film rental. But NOTHING will ever beat the cinema experience--over-priced buttered movie popcorn and all. In the US, I feel like families are taking less vacations (because of the currently shit economy) but going to the movies instead, which is a pretty awesome alternative.

    I don't care for special features that much, so consider me old-fashioned. Part of the magic of the movies is that so many things are simply, left up to the imagination. (Though SOME of the special features on DVDs, namely for the Lord of the Rings boxsets, are pretty cool, but I still wouldn't go out of my way to see them.)

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