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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, August 08, 2011

SELF INFLICTED INJURIES

"The total dollar amount spent on video was only a terribly low $12.6B"

For about 5-10 years, Hollywood has been relying on DVD sales to prop up their wavering ticket sales, although piracy has taken a bite out of that revenue. Even if a movie did poorly in the theater, people would often pick up a copy on DVD to watch at home. With home theaters and big screen TVs, it was cheaper than going to the movies and almost as good an experience, without that kid kicking the back of your seat and people talking. Plus you could pause it, if you had to step away from the screen, or rewind to see something again.

Now DVD sales are dropping off. DVD sales are down 5% so far this year, and part of an overall downward trend since about 2007 when Netflix really started to catch on and the economy started to crumble. This is especially bad news for Blu-Ray, which supposedly won the very costly format battles only to find the format becoming less popular.

Why are DVDs trending downward? Well the most obvious answer is streaming: people just watch stuff on their TV through internet streaming. And 15 years ago, that's what was advertised for the future: one day you'll be able to just pick anything you want to watch and see it instantly on demand! We're still not there, even Netflix' catalog for instant viewing is missing about 80% of what I look for (and 25% of what I look for isn't in their catalog at all). But we're getting closer, and people are shifting to this format.

Why? Well others cover all the obvious reasons pretty well: convenience, speed, cost, if you don't like a film you aren't stuck with it, and so on. That's all true, but I think it leaves out a pretty significant factor: less annoyance.

If you buy a DVD you still have to wade through 5 minutes of warnings and advertisements and previews to get to the 1 minute animation of the menu before you can finally watch the movie. Plunking down 20 bucks for a bunch of crap which sometimes you can't even skip is incredibly obnoxious and really poor business planning on the part of the film studios. I like previews in the theater because they're previews of movies that aren't out yet. When I get a DVD it could be 3 years old or more. I don't want to watch previews of upcoming attractions for 3 years ago.

Look, if I buy a book, I don't have to page through several chapters of ads, warnings not to copyright them, a special little film about how mean it is to pirate books, then 6 different previews of other books I might be interested in. And even if I did, I can flip through the pages to what I want.

By forcing people to sit through all that wasted time, you are encouraging them to look for alternatives which don't require them to look at your annoying crap before they get to what they actually paid for. I don't give a damn about 50 years of MGM movies, or how bitchen Blu-Ray technology is or how pirating is like stealing. I want to watch McBain VI: You Have the Right to Remain Dead, that's what I paid for. I already paid for the movie, you idiots. You're only encouraging people to get pirated non-ad-laden copies.

And now that there's another format that has none of these drawbacks, people are abandoning the DVD for something else. And while people were willing to buy a copy of a movie they might not really want to keep when the economy was doing well and they had no alternatives, they sure aren't when times are tight and they can watch it without needing to pay for the piece of junk. Yes, the kids want to see Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, but that doesn't mean you want to own it.

Basically this is yet another example of an entertainment industry slitting its own throat to get just a few more bucks and the public abandoning their obnoxious business practices at the first reasonable opportunity. Its hard to have much sympathy for Fox or Paramount or the rest sitting on a mountain of cash crying because their mountain is getting smaller, particularly when they kept smacking you in the face for a few extra cents every time you tried to enjoy their product. You guys did this to yourselves. Again. Deal with it.

My concern is that they'll start to strong arm companies like Netflix into putting more of that junk on as a price for carrying their films.

"Sure, you can have Pirates of the Caribbean 8: the Musical, but you have to run ads for our other coming movies and a special non-pirating vignette! Sure, we'll give you a contract for our latest films, but you cannot put them out without an Interpol warning and several ads for Coke that nobody can skip!"

Its hard to figure out how people can be that dense and still be smart enough to run a company.

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