There’s a special place in hell for the Entertainment industry

The Entertainment industry just doesn’t get it. This point — albeit not a terribly original one — was hammered home for me today yet once again.

I had decided to support the movie industry’s entry into the digital sphere by plunking down $1.99 to rent an online copy of “Groundhog Day” via the service called “MovieLink.” Unsurprisingly, the terms were obnoxiously restrictive:
– I could only view the movie on one computer… no copying it to my laptop for the road, etc. Of course, I don’t have a laptop, so this is a moot point, but nonetheless…
– The movie would expire from my hard drive in 30 days.
– Once I hit the “play” button, the movie’d go poof within 24 hours.

Well, you know how the story goes. I downloaded the movie last month and, with the holiday craziness, I didn’t quite get around to watching it ’til this weekend. Realizing that the 30-day point was [gulp] today, I sat my fanny in front of my computer and began to watch the movie.

With about 35 minute left to go, the movie stopped and the following notice popped up on my screen: “The movie ‘Groundhog Day’ has been deleted from your hard drive, freeing up 525 megabytes of disk space.”

Gee, how thoughtful of this movie service to help free up hard drive space for me in that manner!

So what we have here is a movie industry so hell-bent on maintaining control over every aspect of its customer’s viewing experience that it creates a sense of artificial scarcity and urgency — convenience and value be damned.

A brick-and-mortar place like Blockbuster has, of course, real reasons to establish deadlines. Every day that I physically have possession of a DVD from them is a day that someone else is not able to view that DVD, which results in potentially lost revenues for Blockbuster.

However, I’m at a loss as to why an online service has to put, of all things, a deadline for viewing a particular movie. Why would MovieLink care whether I watched my downloaded movie in January or February… or even next year? Regardless of my viewing time, I’d be costing them still a total of one movie’s worth of (downloading) bandwidth.

But this is par for the course with the entertainment industry. Rather than endeavoring to make the consumer’s experience more flexible, convenient, and pleasurable, Hollywood seems determined to make movie watching a frustrating and often cumbersome experience.

Indeed, when it comes down to it, MovieLink really does offer a questionable “value”:
– Mediocre sound and no full-screen video.
– VERY limited selection (<200 films, I think)
– Limited or no extras usually found on DVD’s

And for this, they charge as much as $2.99 for somewhat-current films.

Unfortunately, I doubt things will get much better, at least not until they get much worse. The music and movie industries have very little incentive to do things right, especially since they have politicians largely bought and paid for (witness the Orwellian Digital Copyright Millenium Act that practically makes it illegal to even TALK about circumventing copy protection schemes).

Entertainment insiders like the charming Jack Valenti — who once compared VCR’s to the Boston Strangler — insist that the sort of movies we know and love today will cease to be made unless the, ahem, stranglehold of the movie industry is maintained.

Perhaps he means that telegenic folks reading lines will no longer be able to make in one day what a teacher in the Bronx makes in a lifetime?

Maybe he’s alluding to a future in which whiz-bang special effects in countless and brainless summer movies will prove to be cost-prohibitive?

Is it possible that — horror of horrors — Hollywood will actually have to scale back on its billion dollar legal retainers, sell a few politicians, and actually make movies with thoughtful plots based upon original stories?

Where do I sign?







What do you think?