The MPAA and theater owners are about to come to blows over the former’s desire to have the government lift a ban on technology that would allow them to deliver movies to consumer’s set-top boxes or whatever “close to or during” the theatrical release of said movie. No specific plans have been made public for using that technology, but they wouldn’t be pushing for it if there weren’t a PowerPoint deck on someone’s hard drive for doing just that. Partly fueling this push is the continued (perceived or real, depending on the report you’re reading) weakness of the DVD market.
Ironically those DVD revenues are not likely to be helped by retailers who are putting ridiculously steep discounts on the most anticipated pre-Christmas releases. Walmart, Target and Amazon have all announced plans (Variety, 11/6/09) to make Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian and other new releases available for online purchase at or around $10. That might get a bunch of people to buy but there’s no money to be made there and as soon as the prices go back up those sucked in will go right back to their not-buying behavior.
Meanwhile studio’s pushing for access to people’s TVs seems to be emblematic of their overall aversion to new media, something that’s captured by Adweek (11/6/09). While most of the viewing will indeed still be done TVs via other download or streaming there needs to be equal focus on mobile devices and direct online viewing, something that’s still being put to the backburner.
Believe me when I say no one currently having these arguments knows how the future is going to play out. That’s because it’s consumer behavior that will drive much of the distribution and marketing innovation yet to come, and that behavior will largely be formed by the experiments being run by small filmmakers who are getting the word – and their films – out on a shoestring budget and making direct appeals to the audience.