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Posts Tagged ‘Entitlement Issues’

MPAA and Film / TV Content Production and Distribution – the next 6-10 years

March 18, 2011 2 comments

My experience is in content production, distribution, Broadcasting & electronic Media.

Just doing some more research on the current “issue” or alleged issue of Piracy for the motion picture industry, which is primarily represented in the USA by the Trade Organisation the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America, http://www.mpaa.org).

Now until recently I was aware of the issue, but not of the financial details, now I am actually wondering if there even is a real issue, with the effect of the Global Economic Crisis being seemingly felt across every market segment imaginable, except the motion picture industry, which has according to their own figures had a 15% domestic increase and an International increase of 30% over the years between 2006 and 2010 … wow ! This despite the fact that the number of actual releases in theaters increased just 10.1%.

The price of the admission ticket, rose by 39.4% from 2001– 2010 and yet the cumulative cost of the CPI rose just 27.95% …. ?

OK all that aside …. the rise in the income 2008 –  2009 for theater sales can be expected, as if we go back to the depression, even in harsh economic times (because of the times in fact) the industry has been pretty much recession proof.  The major demographics for the audience goes from 12 to 39 year olds, it is a very niche audience which in these harsher than normal economic times seem to be the only ones that actually have any access to disposable income.

I could go on and on .. however the point is essentially this …. Yes there is a problem with Pirating ( a small one ), but it is not serious, how can it be when year on year the income from sales of theatrical releases has increased far in excess of the CPI … the figures for loss of income presented by the MPAA are not believable.

The following from the immediate past interim CEO, of the MPAA, Mr. Bob Pisano is basically unsubstantiated rhetoric, more commonly known as spin, how can there be a serious problem with over time the income to the industry has increased 30% … such statements as “We will continue to work with our industry partners to fight for common sense ways, through legislative, enforcement and legal avenues, to vigilantly protect the creativity at the heart of our industry from theft.” These kind of statements are making the industry look ridiculous, as well the U.S. Supreme court did rule that just copying did not constitute theft.

I do not agree with piracy, however, this mis-information, is on going and has not be substantiated, they are beat ups by what is essential a trade organisation with a big voice – these statements are not showing the industry in its best light … there are many other industries that employ far more people and families in the USA and worldwide … that actually are in serious and dire straits .. because they don’t have access to the Hollywood Media their voice is lost.  Many families on main street, also have no disposable income to currently invest in any sort of recreation, except free to air TV and maybe cable … remember cable, content on demand and it new variances will be the ever increasing choice for the distribution of content to the wider market.

There are a few issues that the MPAA and the industry in general needs to address… urgently

The price of tickets is not sustainable, bearing in mind that on top of these are the travel, parking, food etc .. taking your children is not the escape it used to be … I took my son to see Avatar at the local cinema and it cost one adult and one child over $40, not including parking, vehicle .. drinks etc…

The lack of growth is also a social one, and manifests as a result of the niche interests of the population, in their online lives – there will come a time, and it is not that far away where people will not go to the movies in anywhere near the same numbers, it is trending down in real terms and will continue to, for lots of reasons, some social, some concerning access, transport and financial to name just some, hopefully before then the studios will have come up with a way to reach people directly via Video Streaming in their lounge rooms, using the dreaded internet … this is here now – so change your business model or else basically … you have less than 5 years, probably less.  I wrote about the effects of technology on the film industry over 12 months ago, and it seems very much to be following the path and the time frame suggested then … in Australia with the NBN (National Broadband Network) this is supposedly designed to provide fibre access with data speeds from 100Mbps to 1 Gbps … this will have a major effect on  the access to On demand services including rich and video media content in Australia.

The Film industry, as with Television needs to start to make relevant stories that people will in the short term at least want to invest money in to go and see … perhaps the new business model is to make low budget movies that are truly an escape from the current meltdown and the huge pressures on families just to get by … but hopefully not too many more regurgitated sequels !!! – mind you that would not be too bad .. if they had a good story, as one can forgive just about anything if the writer and the Directors are at the top of their game –  unfortunately that is not the norm.

Also I have been saying this forever, content distribution is inseparable from content production … if you have funds you need to have been or will be investing in infrastructure for program distribution. The future will not be in venues as it is now, if you don’t now make these strategic investments or at least strategic partnerships, the future is going to be a difficult place as you are going to be a poor position at the bargaining table when it comes time to negotiation in 3–6 years …. because then you will have no distribution infrastructure that you influence, control or own.

Future distribution will not be by a Bricks and Mortar Theatrical release, ultimately the distribution will be in the form of data perhaps via a Peer to Peer network such as a Bit Torrent data stream, as explained in a previous article here  … think outside the box people .  Further the expansion of major releases will become a rarity, not the norm, and hopefully Hollywood will actually become a mature business instead of what it appears to be at the moment, an ego driven teenager with entitlement issues.

The uptake of new movies will have to have relevance to the actual market, talk to them, the real users, use the internet, that is its strength, where relationships and communities are the norm, not the exception .. also personally I am pretty tired of the predictability of the content coming out of Hollywood .. what about an original story please – also how about appealing to some level of standard and not the lowest common denominator.

To expand on the above via a personal observation, there are some unique and profoundly creative talents in the film industry, starting with unique writers that are true story tellers, their connection with the viewers illicit profound emotive responses, exceptional Directors with intuitive timing and insight, fantastic Cinematographers, gifted actors and support staff … with so much raw talent to draw from why is it so hard to put it all into an exceptional film that does not necessarily follow the prescribed formula … but that creates a real connection, and is not just some faded copy of a something that was once a profound original work.

Mainstream mass media including film, is normally a passive experience (except in the case of that true creative work), this mass media model also includes Newspapers, Radio, Cable / Satellite and terrestrial TV …. there is normally little to no  interaction with the viewer, that is not where we are going, the future will trend …. in the longer term your content will need to illicit a emotive response, or if you cannot create a masterpiece then at the very least, interactive ….ultimately the technology and the data speeds will materialize to make this a reality … unfortunately, the current trends for content is that it will come out of virtual sets, and actors as we understand them now may be a thing of the past, computer generation will be much more prevalent than it is even now.

Concerning the future distribution model, basically the Telco’s that currently own the fiber, need content just as much a you will need their fibre for distribution, however I guess if there is no successful negotiation, between you, then I guess content of the ilk of “I love Lucy” and “A Wonderful life” will be the only content … for distribution … funny that.

I realise that if I was again actively involved with the industry, that is back in the club, after a while, perhaps as little as three years, this type of objective perspective would be nearly impossible for me to create, as unfortunately those in the industry have an total inability to be objective and relate to their viewers, their users .. they are too busy doing, but doing what actually ? However a revelation will be forced upon the industry sooner or later, as they clearly don’t get it … change is here, recognise it, or suffer the inevitable changes that will be forced upon you, which you won’t like so much – it’s like I say “Change is the only constant, how we experience it, is up to us” ….

Here  is the link to the Actual financial report of the MPAA, the MPAA Theatrical Report 2010 PDF ….

Is Bit Torrent really a threat for Old Media ?

March 16, 2011 3 comments

Whilst on the surface the Bit torrent application using Peer to Peer technology has the capacity to do harm , again I look at the response to this in a productive viewpoint, how can the studios benefit from this obvious market potential …

For software applications, it is only a threat if the license key operates with the software –  this comes back to the software providers own encryption and licensing software system.

For Video, it is obvious, from the numbers of users, it is well proven point that there is a market for TV shows and Movies … this can be shown by the number of Torrent participants in the data stream … why isn’t it an option to pursue, that the content producers offer a legal stream of product, such as the Australian ABC does when product is broadcast within Australia, OK it is downgraded and in Mp4 Video format, but for those who have missed the show, or want to keep it for their amusement, what is the harm ? – it is a domestic only quality. Alternatively I can view the content in high quality using the i-View program replay service … for a limited time ?  Excellent interactive relationship for a transparent relationship with your customer.

For those outside of the studios primary market, which is primarily that of the continental USA, it is impossible to gain access to the content legally –  due to the Networks own licensing restrictions, people outside the studio zone, cannot view the product on-line … so the Bit torrent Software was born and is used as a response to this limitation. I am speaking primarily here of TV programs, the software allows someone to upload a program that was in the Public Domain, as it has been broadcast, so they can viewed in another geographic zone … In Australia none of the Video Streaming services allow access to the content for users in Australia, due to licensing issues, why is this ? Surely if I was subscribing to a US content provider –  streaming content, my own internet id (Geo location) would identify what geographic zone I was in, and thus my licensing region, and thus the content licensee for this zone … in my view the money I pay for access could be quite easily sent to the applicable country license holder for a particular content, by the i/p address as a subscriber … you guys need to start thinking outside of the box, and there is a substantial  increase in income that will flow once you do something so simple, for no appreciable increase in costs, as well as the increase in net due to increases in good will and lack of a confrontation relationship and the lack of a divisive enforcement arm – which lacks any credibility.

Stripping of a DVD to obtain the Video Stream is something that is another kettle of fish all together, as it was a licensed program, for one viewer only (household) –  I can see the harm here, all though it is no way to take as credible the loss of income the studio pundits claim, you cannot view the numbers and directly equate them to lost profits. However I do not agree with the commercial use of the Bit Torrent service where people pirate these streams to produce pirate copies to DVD’s …. however from the research I have undertaken, talking to users past and present, for a single user .. I have been told by many people I have spoken to actually go onto to buy legitimate licensed products, using the downloaded product as a trial if you like.

The content creators themselves have used the Bit Torrent facility, in the recent past and continue to do so. Recently there was the much heralded release of almost the final installment of a major franchise – (one more to go) … a program full topped and tailed (a teaser .. less than 40 minutes long) was released onto the Bit torrent before the theatrical release date … I have written about this as a use by the studios, when it suited them as a “legitimate marketing channel”, they used the Bit torrent facility, that obviously created interest and did make a positive difference at the box office.

However, by creating scarcity, the studios, the content creators / providers have created a secondary market that is so substantial –  what is their response, instead of being constructive and transparent, and working with the internet, to provide a access channel to provide access to this content, they go to these facilitator organisations that further exacerbate the situation, they troll the internet for alleged offenders. I have been so informed that the content providers / studios supposedly farm out their enforcement to self styled cowboys who I have been told send out unsubstantiated claims of infringement … for which they have no way of gaining anything positive from, except that it creates distance between the two parties and a them and us mentality. Nothing will be resolved … hopefully though, we are looking for a solution here … right ?

Surely if the studios, created a way whereby people could legitimately download a copy of the content, a downgraded quality for free or via something like an i-store or similar content provider at a reasonable cost of say $1 per TV episode (bear in mind there is no medium and the user pays for the data downloaded), the problem would essentially evaporate ….. or provide a encryption licensed video feed on something like a i-View format file, to provide the content …. or invest in a new Video file format that could not be hacked with a one user only encryption key.

Further to these claims of loss that is put forward by the license holders and their cowboys, this is substantially a fallacy, as it looks at the numbers of downloads and equates them to sold product at a sell price, this is such manipulation, as those downloads will not transfer to income unless the studio actually puts a 21st century procedure in to capitalise on this … if those that are seeking content could legitimately source product from the studios, free for a lower quality downloaded copy of pay for it at a reasonable price for a quality product then I believe the problem, much of these I am a victim mentality the content providers, particularly the spin the TV studios are pushing, is substantially a beat up and the problem would essentially evaporate.

If we view the actual financial performance of studio licensing, in context of the United States Balance of payments for 2008, 2009 and now in 2010 –  you can see increases in licensing income for overseas content sales which has increased over these years.

Incidentally there is only one major TV network in the USA that gets it … and coincidentally only one in Australia … that is making an attempt to provide access .. unfortunately the worst network is someone who should know better and I thought that they did

I wrote about this and other aspects of the affect of the internet on Old Media models in a white paper as far back as 2008 … with different ways to re-structure their business models even then, it is obvious that no one is yet ready to see a solution here and start thinking outside of the box now or then.

My view of the Internet and Older business models, is a couple of things, (1) The internet user demands a different relationship with content providers & (2) Use the internet to form communities, and build a sustainable interactive relationship – this is its strength (3) Please think outside the box … you cannot win this – make some money by approaching it another way … and what you can do best, that is to produce excellent content .

My advice to the studios, capitalise on the opportunity …. focus on your craft instead of sending all your profits to the lawyers.

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