What Content Can NOT be Pirated, Is still 100% Free and Millions of People See DAILY?

It’s not the movies. They are all over everywhere. It’s not music. It’s not photo’s or documents. C’mon…Its TELEVISION! What I mean is this: TV isn’t pirated out of the box because the episodes of LOST or V or the last NY Giant football game (sorry, I’m a fan) debut on TV. I can’t find the upcoming episode of V which is on ABC tommorrow -10/10/09 – on any torrent or newsgroup. It may show up AFTER its debut on TV, but never before. There are no ‘screener’s’ floating around the newsgroups. This being said, the content on these networks becomes all that much more important. And, I believe because its so accessable, that’s one of the reasons its NOT on the newsgroups or torrents as much as the movies and music are.

-Coming up:

Wal-Mart and Target – The last DVD standing

 

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Blockbuster killed the video store all by themselves

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It was a lethal combination of technology, fatter pipes and morons who THOUGHT they understood this business but didn’t have a clue. That’s right. MORONS. Why do I say this? In August of 2008 when interviewed about the success NetFlix was having, Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes was “baffled by his competitor’s success”. And what was even more confusing to Mr. Keyes was the emphasis on catalog size. “Why would anyone want to watch anything other than new releases”, he wondered. He goes on to say : “I don’t care how many movies are available to me. As my personal taste as a customer, I want to watch the new stuff so whether we have 10,000 movies or 200 movies doesn’t matter if I don’t want to see any of the movies that we have . . . our assortment is heavily weighted toward newer releases and mainstream staple titles.” This guy clearly just does not get it. He’s not a film person and why in the world any responsible and half-way intelligent person responsible for turning around a business like Blockbuster hire someone like this is beyond me. FAIL.

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Blockbuster used to be the 900 lb. gorilla in this space. It was dominant. And they did nothing to extend that dominance into the 21st century. Content to rest on this 80’s-90’s business model of retail foot traffic, Blockbuster basically put its head into the sand and held its breath. For a company with the kind of cash flow it had and market power and brand awareness they simply mismanaged their business into the ground, all the time telling shareholders that their business was doing great.

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And then there was the Circuit City possible acquisition for $ 1.35 billion. I guess someone figured that expanding the brick-and-mortar business was a way to increase Blockbusters business. Why you want to expand the brick-and-mortar business when over the last 18 months, Blockbuster closed 412 stores (including Gamestation stores), presumably because they were operating at a loss or weren’t terribly profitable. FAIL. But it gets even better.

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In August of 2007, they acquired ‘Movielink’ for $20 million dollars. Then one year later rolled out to the general public in ‘beta’ a service for ‘downloading’ of movies online. It included 5,000 titles. The downloading prices started at $8; and rental fees started at $2. It didn’t matter that it took nearly as long to download one movie as it did to get the same one in the mail from Netflix. Nor did it matter that once you spent the $8.00 and a day to get the film, it was laced with DRM making it unwatchable anywhere else but the device you received it on and unwatchable after 24 hours. Very consumer friendly indeed. If you were an executive in the business, you knew that Movielink was already dead long before Blockbuster bought it. CinemaNow and Movielink were both dead. You had to be living under a rock to believe that Movielink with its ‘PC windows’ download client manager with DRM was the future of the online movie business. How management at Blockbuster managed to convince their board of director to use $20 million dollars of the companies funds to buy Movielink is nothing but pure stupidity and mismanagement of funds. If I were a shareholder, I would have sued them. FAIL once again.

DISCLAIMER: (I started iWatchNow.com in late November of 2003 with a partner)

Fast forward to 2006, we had started an online film and TV distribution service called iWatchNow.com. My partner knew how to sling code something wicked and I knew where and how to get the content. We were one of the very early entrants in this area, next to CinemaNow and MovieLink. Neither iTunes, Hulu, Amazon, Reeltime, Veoh, Joost, Babelgum, etc., were there yet in 2003 when we were around. But they were coming big time. We acquired over 3,000 movies and TV shows. Everything from Jack Nicholson’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ (the Roger Corman public domain (PD) classic) to non-public domain goodies like ‘Tunnel Vision’ with Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and the original Saturday Night Live crew. It was eclectic, fun and as irreverent as we could make it showing rarely seen and hard to find content. We gave away some content for free with advertising. Other programming cost $ .99 cents per rental/24 hrs to stream.

But there were 4 things that we felt were important; to stream instead of download, to not use a client to stream but use the browser, to make the search on the site for content lightning fast and purchases easy with as few clicks as possible. We didn’t focus on ‘new’ releases because we knew that in a short time, EVERYONE would be showing them. The advances were too big from each studio for our little company, so we focused on the ‘long tail’ and convenience.

We thought that we had created a pretty good framework for a start-up online company and launched in January 2006. Then in March I decided to call Blockbuster and invite them in to our offices to see our system for the expressed purpose of selling it to them so they could jump start their online business. So, two executives showed up at our offices; Dean Wilson and Richard Jenrud. They looked under the hood, saw the library, kicked the tires and then left. We never heard back from them. Then we heard they paid $20m for a failing ‘Movielink’ service. What I am saying here is that Blockbuster probably had not only our service to look at but many others in the fledgling marketplace, yet they chose a dinosaur to spend $20m and buy Movielink. What in the world were they thinking?

The Newest Pirate on the Block…and it’s NOT Jack Sparrow

Unbelievable. And the quality rocks. Someone’s going to shut these guys down sooner or later. The MPAA is just going to throw the keys away when they catch these guys. I don’t agree with this thinking, however, in the meantime, you can enjoy some movies right now: http://quicksilverscreen.com/. They look a bit like http://www.peekvid.com/ but the quality and site response is soooo much better (maybe that’s because PeekVid moved servers to Albania?). Just pop the corn. pirate.jpg

Pirated Screeners…your ‘Christmas’ update. Brought to you by…. The Studios!

warner.jpguniversal.jpgparamount.jpgcolumbiatristar.jpgdisney1.jpgmgm.jpg It’s Christmas time and more and more of those ever ‘elusive’ screeners are appearing now online each day (and other films too, not just screeners) . Just showing up last night and ALL in DVD Screener quality; I am Legend , Gone Baby Gone, Zodiac, Resident Evil Extinction, Stardust, The Simpsons Movie, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Eastern Promises, Underdog (what a waste of digital storage space), Once, The Kite Runner, 3:10 to Yuma, Atonement, The Bee Movie,  No Country for Old Men,  Alvin and The Chipmunks, August Rush, and The Perfect Holiday. Still MIA are (but I expect will rear their heads in a few days); Fred Claus, Enchanted,  Michael Clayton,  The Golden Compass, Sweeney Todd, Charlie Wilson’s War, Beowolf, P.S. I Love You and National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

The DVD screeners are nearly all ‘poached’ from someone in each studio. The screener ‘log’ number (embedded in the digital copy near the bottom of the screen) has been digitally removed so it can’t be identified as to whose screener copy it actually was.

It appears that the crop of pictures are as robust as last years and that despite numerous anti-theft measures by each studio, films STILL make it out the door. Some are Region 5 copies, most are dvd screeners, internal to each studio. However, with the demise of Kazaa and Limewire in the past year and half, the distribution of these ‘pirated’ copies has diminished. The reason being that Kazaa and Limewire enabled the non-technical consumers to be able to download a copy of anything with only 1 click. Getting films such as the ones I’ve mentioned above now from newsgroups requires a pretty sophisticated and long process and some technical understanding and expertise. Most of this is well beyond the masses online. That’s the good news. But in truth, these ‘advance’ screeners end up being discussed and chatted about online much like topics you might discuss around the proverbial ‘water cooler’ at your office. These discussions (positive or negative) filter down into people’s blogs, messageboards, IM chats and eventually get swept up onto Google somewhere giving that film some additional exposure it never would of had through traditional channels. After all, isn’t that what each studio tries to do with all of their content when its released, ultimately promote it? Wouldn’t it be cool one day if someone at a studio realized all of this and made a film with 2 different endings (or additional scenes) to try and take advantage of this unregulated distribution ‘channel’. Purposely release the DVD screener of 1 version (ending) and then the other (the theatrical version) through normal channels. Think of the buzz and consumer demand (especially if the film was popular) to now find that other version and see the alternate ending. Of course, then they could release THAT version through traditional channels giving the studio’s perhaps a larger slice of DVD sales at retail.

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UPDATED: Those ‘elusive’ online Academy Award Screeners for 2007…

My post on November 4th comes with a new update today. It’s Sunday and a lazy day for me so I spent some time online looking for some ‘academy’ screeners to see what I could find. Oscar These are high quality DVD’s of movies that are sent around only to Academy voting members. They are highly ‘protected’ from theft pirate bay org. (or so it is touted), with each copy mailed to each member, signed for and numbered, registered by each studio – and I’m sure there are other safeguards taken as well . But somehow, someway, each and EVERY year most of them end up on the newsgroups first, then inevitably the digital file filters down to the easier to ‘Phd’ applications ( Phd = push here dummy) like Limewire limewire or Kazaa Kazaa in their heyday.

How does this happen despite the increased security and improved technological ‘fingerprinting’ and ‘watermarking’ movies are found there? Its not like one or two movies get pirated and released online before they come to DVD retail stores or available online through iTunes iTunes, Unbox Unbox, Movielink movielink or CinemaNow. cinemanow MOST of them somehow make it online. Now that being said, I think that the availability of these movies online like this just increase the sales of the DVD and interest through discussion by those who get to say they have ‘seen’ the film first. Its in the word of mouth. I believe that any real fan of a movie will buy it to own the copy anyway – proud to have it at their convenience to watch. I do it with my favorite music and bands because I play that music over and over again. Just like my favorite movies (but far less than I do a favorite song, btw). Anything less than my favorite gets rented anyway.

Nowadays, they put movies up on YouTube and other services in several parts. I think I read somewhere that soon YouTube will allow you to post something that is ‘movie’ length, i. e. 2+ hrs. This will invite people to post full-length features online a bit easier in single or 2 digital files (generally a divx file can be as small as 700 megs per film vs. the 3-4 gigs VOB file ripped directly from a DVD).

So without much further ado, here is the list, links and where I found these SO FAR:

UPDATE from November 4th: (*note: not all of the below mentioned titles are ‘Academy Screeners’, some are art house pics, some are DVD screeners that were leaked earlier than their DVD street date -most likely by an employee – and all are found in the divx binarydivx newsgroup as well as some others and are available for download for free by anyone with a newsgroup reader, newsleecher newsgroup account, newshosting and some par files). If you need some help understanding how to do all of this, you can look it up on the web here (and its not an easy exercise to do and that’s why services like Limewire and Kazza thrived for so long) or try iTunes.

*The Brothers Solomon, King of California, Redacted, Fifty Pills, The Banishment, In Memory of Myself, The Edge of Heaven, Thieves, The Man Who Shot Chinatown, The Man from Earth, Shattered, September Dawn, Dragon War.