It’s Saturday night and you have a two hour blank spot in your evening schedule. There’s a good film in theaters right now, but you don’t feel like going out and would much rather cuddle on the sofa and watch the same film with your significant other. What do you do today? You grab the thing off RapidShare or some BitTorrent tracker. The quality isn’t all that (it’s a telesync or a cam release, ewww), but you got it nearly for free and you didn’t need to move your butt anywhere.
How could the entertainment industry improve this situation and turn this into cash? By offering the same film to you at home, in Full HD, to be streamed to your TV for 10% more than the movie ticket would cost. Hey, you’d save that much by not having to buy drinks, popcorn and parking. Also, as opposed to the RapidShare solution, you could start watching right away and, let’s be generous and realistic, finish anytime in the following 7 days. Huge profit for the industry, and they can make even more if they use e.g. BitTorrent to spread content distribution onto all connected cable boxes of all subscribers of the service. That way they put some of the cost of scaling onto the customer instead of having to buy their own bandwidth. So their profits improve from two sides: Not having to maintain the cinema distribution chain for that particular view and not having to pay for all their own bandwidth as customers pay a significant amount.
This isn’t bullshit: Look at any decent HD torrent today and you can usually find a solid amount of seeders. My line at home isn’t particularly fat (10 Mbit/s), but BitTorrent can saturate it, and that means I get a good 8 GB HD rip in a bunch of hours.
Back to the future vision. Later on, when the film is out on Blu-Ray, you could buy a downloadable copy for e.g. 30% less than what the BD version costs. There’s no DRM on it, but that’s fine because the industry saves money by having to pump less funds into maintaining the phyiscal disc supply chain. They piss off the channel partners, but hey, life is tough. If you want to hear complaints about changing markets making jobs obsolete, talk to a blacksmith.
The same works for series or games: The earlier you want them, the more you pay. The later you buy, the more restrictions (e.g. DRM) are removed. With games you may even get bonus packages such as downloadable content included free with your purchase if you choose to buy later, e.g. a year after release. And while we’re mentioning DRM, it could of course be removed completely once there is enough bandwidth to stream HD movies or game assets on demand. You’d never even receive a fully copy of the film, just the instant you’re viewing at the time. If there’s no file in the customer’s hands, there’s no pressure to have DRM.
Now you’ll call me naive, you’ll say that the studios will never have enough common sense for such a simplistic solution, and that they don’t have balls big enough to go without DRM or put some part of the distribution system onto customers’ devices. At the moment you’re right. But in 10 years, we’ll be getting our entertainment in a way like I described, and all these problems will have been miraculously solved.
These are ideas that are perfectly possible to implement right now, today. Just like MP3 was the ‘current’ thing, not the future thing, for us techies 10 years ago. This means the entertainment industry will have caught up with our ideas in a decade. The question is whether these ideas, or the big label entertainment industry itself, are still relevant then. It’s for them alone to decide, and they have to decide today.
The physical retail channel for entertainment will go away sometime soon, butts all over the world will be more and more reluctant to move out of their comfortable sofa grooves, so the entertainment industry better wake up to these facts, stop playing the victim and start planning now.
Photo CC-By Randy Son Of Robert