Bears get flex game

Under the new TV deal with NBC, the network gets to snatch a high-profile game from CBS or Fox. The idea was to give them more flexibility when it comes to scheduling. The first game they’ve exercised this right with is next week’s Bears vs. Giants match-up. This “flex game” concept is designed to avoid late-season match ups between two teams that are out of playoff contention or otherwise inconsequential.

Constantin’s custom search now on Open The Dialogue

Constatin Basturea has created a Custom Google Search that contains the 500+ blogs on his PR and Communications Blog List. It’s such a fantastic idea – exactly along the lines of something I’ve been looking for for some time now – that I’ve added it to the sidebar here on OTD.

Many thanks to Constantin for all the hard work that I’m sure went into this.

Creation and distribution in a new media world

There’s a new distribution model emerging for movies. It’s called “the internet.” You might have heard of it. And retailers and studios have good reason to fear it, but not for the reasons you might think.

As you probably know, the studios have been experimenting with various services that allow people to download movies over the internet. Whether it’s CinemaNow,iTunes or Amazon’s Unbox, a program that does everything but claim the right of Primae Noctis as a condition of your buying a movie, a variety of alternatives are now out there with varying selections, quality and prices. They also all come with their own restrictions on where and how you can watch the movie once you get it

The emergence of so many new systems has not gone unnoticed by retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart. Both have significant power in the home video market since Wal-Mart alone is responsible for something along the lines of 40 percent of all DVDs sold in the U.S. Both companies heavily discount their DVDs, especially the newest releases, in an effort to bring people into the store where, the hope is, they’ll also pick up toilet paper, Pop-Tarts, a new pair of jeans or something else they need at the moment.

This steep discounting has caused financial problems for stores whose core business is movies. Tower Records was unable to keep up with these two on DVD sales and lost market share to music downloads and recently went out of business. Blockbuster Video can’t discount their sell-through selection as much as Target can. That, combined with the fact that a purchase at Target is just as expensive as renting three movies as Blockbuster, is spelling future trouble for at least the bricks-and-mortar outlets the company operates.

Which makes it especially funny in a double-homicide sort of way, to hear Target and Wal-Mart complain about being subjected to price competition. The two are upset with studios over the lower prices download services are able to license the movies for and then, in turn sell them for. That makes them worried that consumers will begin making their purchasing decisions based on price points, a process both Wal-Mart and Target have *counted on* the consumers going through up until now. I don’t see them upping their prices based on the fact that specialty movie stores can’t compete with them on price in an effort to create a “level playing field” for all parties. It’s an illogical hook on which to hang their sense that they’re about to be cut out of the home video distribution model and the corporate equivalent of threatening to hold their breath unless they get their way.

If they actually followed through on their thinly veiled – or outright – threats to cut back the shelf space devoted to DVDs in retaliation the only party they’d be hurting is themselves. Smaller selection at a higher price would only drive consumers deeper into the arms of other big-box retailers like Best Buy (who likely is just biding its time before they debut their own download service) or online rentals through Blockbuster or industry leader Netflix. If people see the Sunday ads touting the titles on sale only to come in later in the week and find nothing left then they’re not going to stick around to get the othersundrys . They’re just going to leave and go to Amazon, where they can order the DVD and some other stuff. And if this experience happens more than a couple times then this will become established behavior on the part of the consumer.

A better tactic would be to highlight the advantages of owning the DVD over the downloading of a movie, such as those mentioned by Shelly Palmer at MediaPost. For one thing, you get to actually own the movie and aren’t subject to all sorts of DRM and other restrictions. For another, the movie is more portable and playable on any and all players. Still further, thedownloadable versions don’t come with all those cool bonus features. So instead of crying and pouting over it, retailers would actually be wise to focus on what an incredible value customers are getting by coming into stores and purchasing the physical DVD. But it’s easier to whine about being treated unfairly than it is to think about creative alternatives to problems, isn’t it?

Of course this isn’t the only problem studios are now facing regarding downloads. The actor’s and writer’s unions, who only recently resolved a dispute regarding DVD royalties – are now wanting to whet their beaks from the download trough.

And now there’s the Venice Project from the minds behind Skype and Kazaa. The proposed and hinted at system would use peer-to-peer technology to legally distribute feature-film length video, with the possibility of ad-supported channels being available. The guys running this are talking to a variety of media establishments to see how they can work together and if something works out this could be a category killer. Gone would be all of thenascent attempts at film downloading, gone would be TV shows through iTunes. This would rule the roost and define all innovation that came after it.

The traditional distribution model might be irreparably broken when theater chains can’t figure out how to market the digital cinema experience. Considering this is how media is going to be consumed in the near future, in the highest resolution and quality format available, this has to be disheartening to anyone betting on movie theaters as a legitimate distribution outlet. This is a no-brainer and could be a great differentiator among consumers. Since not everyone has HD home theater as of yet this would be seemingly no more difficult than how movie theaters overcame the threat from TV in the first place, as being a better quality experience that TV. That’s what brought about thewidescreen format as we know it, with studios wanting to give their audience a substantively different experience than they could have at home.

All of this leads me to my second point, that movies that have been rejected by studios are beginning to go straight to the consumer over the internet, bypassing theaters, bypassing the established download services, and bypassing home video.

In recent weeks two movies that have little to zero in the way of distribution have popped up online. Both Sony Classics’ Who Killed the Electric Car and the independent film America: From Freedom to Facism are now viewable for free at different online video sites. So theater owners are at least one step closer to being irrelevant. This isn’t even reliant on any sort of traditional production and distribution method. Literally anyone can now create and post their films to the web for anyone to stream. This is huge. If someone can make a movie and not even go through the festival circuit, traditionally the route taken by independent filmmakers, then the paradigm has shifted significantly. There’s very little denying that user-generated films are here to stay whether they take the traditional release route or not.

Not only is the internet a home for distribution but also for potential actors, directors and others to test out and hone the skills, sort of a minor league system for entertainment. That’s the gist of this story detailing Blip.tv, a site and company that aggregates and syndicates home-produced videos. The ease of use, both in terms of video creation and now, with Blip.tv and their ever-increasing number of syndication deals, is making casting calls and auditions almost quaint and unnecessary. It’s similar to what I did when I started looking for a new job. I posted everything I had done on the web to my del.icio.us account and pointed people there for people to view instead of submitting a printed-out portfolio. If I were an actor, director, or an agent for an actor or director, I would point casting agents to my client’s YouTubeplaylist or Blip.tv channel. One talent agency, United Talent Agency, has already taken a big step in this direction by opening a new unit to scout the online world for new talent. A new media age means the rules for displaying and finding talent have changed.

The bottom line is that we do not live in the same world we once did. Entertainment is coming at us from so many directions and only a sliver of those are ones that existed even just five years ago. Opportunities abound for people to create and distribute those creations and traditional entertainment entities are struggling to keep up.

Book bonanza

I recently got a whole bunch of marketing-oriented books, some that I bought and some in the form of review copies, including “Citizen Marketers” by Ben McDonnell and Jackie Huba. Ben and Jackie mention that reviews based on these copies are forthcoming and that’s the truth. It’s second in line for reading and writing up, right after I finish Andy Senovitz’s “Word of Mouth Marketing” which is so far excellent. I’m going to be adding these two books to my Amazon aStore so if you haven’t picked them up yet I strongly encourage you to do so.

LOTD: October 25

  • Wired has a story by Jennifer Granick about all the nifty things that Web 2.0ish services are doing to improve your overall voting experience this year
  • The Yahoo! Search folks have announced their latest Yahoo! Toolbar (for IE) and Yahoo! Bookmarks
  • Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache share the worst political Websites they’ve come across
  • Ringtones might end up getting cheaper, says Ars Technica’s Nate Anderson. I guess people haven’t started buying Xingtone yet, have they?
  • Internet addiction? Oh, please
  • Think your cellphone isn’t going to become the center of the universe? Sure, some of the music playing ones aren’t exactly pretty just yet, but as hard drives get bigger and styling becomes more awesome, that’ll change. In any case, you can now get your train ticket delivered to your mobile on one train line running from London.