A Train Wreck Indeed!

How do you f’up the pay-per-view business? You don’t. No need to – it has been one train wreck since 1984. (Full disclosure: In 1984, I started a nationwide satellite delivered ‘A’ title Movie service called’ The People’s Choice’ alongside of Jeff Reiss’s ‘RequestTelevision’ and Scott Kurnit’s ‘Viewers Choice’). When I was in this business, Bill Mechanic (ex-CEO, Chairman of Fox, Disney, green lit ‘Titanic’) and Barry Diller were at Paramount, Jamie Kellner ( Orion Pictures who went on to run ‘The WB Network’), Hal Richardson ( President at Paramount) was at Disney/Dreamworks, Eric Frankel (President for 26yrs) and Stanley Solson along with Eddie Blier were at Warner Bros. ( close to the Steve Ross reign whom I knew well from High School days), Mike Medavoy at Tri-Star, Ned Nalle at Universal and Andy Kaplan at Sony. Most all of these people now still are around and are running their own ship BECAUSE back then, they had a some foresight and moxie. They DID agree to let the PPV at least try and get off the ground by granting PPV rights to a few nascent, early entrants in the business. At that time, there were only a few addressable homes to see the films.

Since the inception of PPV on the cable landscape, its always been a ‘promise’ business at best. Nothing really ever took off or was unbelievably successful (and I am referring to MOVIES, not the WWF, Boxing or the Adult business). Many a business and consulting firm was built around it, hardware made for it, ordering systems invented and manufactured and in the end, most went out of business. Most cable operators didn’t even understand it or what it was suppose to be, what ‘tier’ to put it on and how to promote it. Most felt it would cannibalize their existing cash cow, PAY TV.

It never cannibalized anything because it never got off the ground. No one could agree on a movie PPV ‘window’ (the timing of when a PPV movie should be allowed to be seen and ordered on PPV). Many a conference, discussion group, speech and convention sessions were had – all futile. Nothing was ever decided. The VCR’s were blamed as the culprit, then it was the movie studios, then it was theater owners, then it was Pay TV and the ‘exclusivity’ wars of the 90’s. Then the Internet crept upon us all and that was the new Darth Vadar. You can’t release a film on PPV too early because it could be copied easily and even easier become distributed by means of the internet all over the planet (meaning no more duplicating and bicycling cassettes as if my friends ever did this in mass to begin with). Now, using the Internet, movies would be all over the place, everywhere. Everyone would have a copy. Well? Do we ALL have copies of Avatar? Tootsie? As Good As It Gets? Dirty Harry? A good industry has got to know its limitations! And this one never did!

Now, theater owners are afraid of the 60 day release window. Pahleeese! Just read a few of the articles below.

http://engt.co/lWRaty

http://bit.ly/kXEgRU

http://lat.ms/kiRwwc

Theater owners and the Hollywood creative community are livid about Premium VOD, which they perceive as paving the road to cannibalizing theatrical attendance which would in turn harm a movie’s overall economics, creating a dangerous downward spiral. In addition, there’s concern that if consumers switch to watching movies on the small screen then the creative license implicit in a big screen emphasis will get squeezed. While their concerns MAY be justified, the good news for them is that Premium VOD will be lucky to achieve even minimal success.

Why? The cost is one – $ 30.00 for a poor film or film that has not done well at the theater or is released directly to DVD (or what was once called DVD) is insane. Sorry, justification by babysitter fees and popcorn costs don’t cut it. These are niche films. Avatar and other BIG films will never see this light of day through this window. But ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ‘ will (and has already, sort of). Example – first film up is Just Go With It” starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. Ho-hum. Good cast and a flop a the box office for the most part. I’d be pissed if I paid $30.00 for this AND CAN’T EVEN KEEP A COPY IN A DIGITAL LOCKER TO SEE WHEN I WANTED AGAIN? WTF? And frankly that could be one of the keys to making this viable. Give me the ability to KEEP it as if I bought the DVD ( keep it in a ‘cloud’ locker) and I’d might buy a few films – that would help at least justify the cost.

And, as Will Richmond from VideoNuze so aptly points out, “Studios seem to believe that making movies available sooner in the home will attract demand. But the problem is that there are already so many choices for watching movies in the home – pay-TV, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, etc. etc., that it will be very hard to break through the noise, solely with a “sooner” positioning, which is more than offset by a ridiculously high price point. Consumers are savvier than ever; they’ll quickly realize that they can get the same movie for $4-5, a sixth to a seventh the price of Premium VOD, just by waiting a couple more months for it to appear on pay-TV or online VOD.”

So, theater owners who vow to ‘go to war’ are wasting their time and efforts. I guarantee them that the Movie studios and cable operators and satellite delivery services will win the war for them. Somehow, these guys think that consumers are not too smart. When are they going to wake up and smell the coffee? When are they going to realize that all of us don’t rush to ‘steal’ digital copies of films for any number of reasons (i.e., they are 700megs of data AT LEAST, cumbersome to store, less than perfect copies that lack subtitles at times and extra’s.) They are not MP3’s! Music and movies may both have a digital base as a common denominator but ultimately I’ll listen to Hotel California many more times than I can watch Avatar in my lifetime. And the pirates don’t make a bit of difference except barely on the streets of lower Manhattan or Tokyo where poorly made copies sell for $5.00 until those vendors get caught that day. And they on sell about 30 movies at that point – no MASS market like that that would ruin a $250m box office in the theaters or in any ancillary market I know of.

Theater owners should rejoice that soon this whole business will be in Netflix’s (or some other digital distributors) capable hands and not the studios. (Apologies to those friends of mine at the studios now – its not your fault, it’s just the ‘economics’ to blame and perhaps a few at the top thinking we are still in the DVD/VCR age). Make the business consumer friendly – give us a copy of what we buy and allow us to watch it whenever we want for our money that we spent. After all, I can do this with new music released, why not new movies released?

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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

 

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

iPhone update 3

So my friend who has an iPhone iphone.jpg that he bought from eBay ‘jailbroken’ that has been working for the most part OK. None of Apple’s firmware updates have proved to be disruptive. He has software that allowed (also got from eBay) him to put in his cell phone number from Sprint into the iPhone and transfer the calls and and account to the hacked iPhone. He still gets a Sprint bill. He just makes and receives all calls using just the wifi connection in the iPhone coupled with the software from eBay. His Sprint bill used to be over $ 200.00 a month. He lowered it to Sprint’s least expensive calling plan (about $35.00 a month) and uses a wifi connection in his home and while on the road to make and receive all calls. The calls are cheap – they are 100% free. So as long as Sprint sees he still has a data plan, they don’t retire his number and bills him at a minimum plan rate. They have no idea he uses wifi to make his calls nor can they find out.

Compare this to getting an iPhone from ATT. You get 2 years in jail (ATT jail that is, a 2 yr. cell plan). And if you want to access the internet and other iPhone functions that you probably will want to (hey, you don’t get the iPhone to make cell calls only) , you must get the ‘Media’ package from for another $ 15-25 a month. But the real kicker is that you ALSO pay Apple a $45.00 a month fee to access other essential online functionality from Apple ( and I don’t have an iPhone yet to be able to tell you exactly what those online items are) but I believe its access to your contact phone book and numbers, photos and other online goodies from .mac . iPhone cell bills are some of the most expensive cell bills on the planet right now averaging over $ 200.00 a month all in.

So, my friend’s iPhone deal from eBay looks like a real deal after all. Except for one thing. He and I had lunch last week and very often he doesn’t answer a lot more calls since he got his new iPhone. So, we tested it at lunch. After trying to call him several times on his iPhone (and he was sitting at the same table as me), the wifi connection did NOT tell him that I was calling -nothing. It was as if I never had called. On the third try, it worked and said he missed a call from me. But the first 2 times, nothing. I sent him an SMS , and that worked fine as did leaving him a voicemail. But the wifi seemed to be a bit if’fy.

Conclusion: if you need to be reached 100% of the time on your cell phone, go to the ATT store and get an iPhone. If you don’t, go to eBay and get an iPhone. You third possibility will come early next year. Free cell phones and cell phone access through Google’s new wireless spectrum and Android advertising laden cell phone. But, to be able to make calls for free, the price could be right.