Is it a coincidence that in the same week that "a slew of Hollywood studios and cable companies are teaming up for a $30 million advertising campaign... to further promote awareness of movies available on cable VOD" (THR.com - "Studios, cable companies team for VOD"), we have "Blockbuster shares tumble after bankruptcy warning"? (Associated Press) Well, actually, it is a coincidence, I guess, but there is a very specific shift in the industry that's causing both events to happen...
Truth of the matter is, the DVD is dying. I don't think it'll ever fully go away, but it's definitely being devalued. According to Redbox, the subsidiary of Coinstar that specializes in the vending of rental DVD's via self-service/interactive kiosks, the rental of a DVD is worth a couple bucks, at best. Then, you have the Hulu's and Netflix's. Hulu is streaming content for free and Netflix is mailing DVD's out using a subscription model, which pushes the value of each DVD even lower. However, even Netflix sees the downside of DVD's and they're pushing heavily into VOD and streaming, by partnering with the likes of XBox, PS3 and even TiVo. Blockbuster tried to shift with the times, concentrating their outlets on being a retail experience and getting into mailing out DVD's and creating their own VOD experience, but, hey... it's a crowded marketplace.
Now, for fun, let's go back a few years. Back to the early 90's... the Worldwide web didn't exist, Mark Wahlberg was just a rapper, email was a few years away, we were anxiously waiting for "Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday", after the disappointment that was "Jason Takes Manhatten", and computers were relegated to getting information from floppy discs. Your computer was used to play "Leisure Suit Larry" and write term papers, that was about it. However, there were a few visionaries out there that knew what was coming... This thing called the Internet was about to come along and with it would come massive changes in hardware, software and infrastructure. Fast forward to present day and we now have the ability to interact, download and stream the richest of content, instantly. We got here pretty fast, didn't we? Now, what does this all mean?
Well, really, it doesn't mean that much. Looking back, TV meant the demise of the movie theater. VHS meant the demise of TV. Cable meant the demise of the Networks. DVD meant the demise of VHS. Now, streaming and VOD mean the demise of DVD. Looking at it that way, VHS is the only thing that really got hooped... poor VHS. Well, that was bound to happen. Remember when you used to have your VHS tapes and you'd keep their boxes all clean and on display? Remember how proudly you displayed your DVD collection? I don't know about you, but I've lost most of my DVD boxes and I have scratched up, old DVD's everywhere. This is just a shift in the industry and shifts will keep happening. After streaming and VOD, my bet is that everything goes to a cloud system - pay once for the rights to view content, then you'll get it forever, on any device... but it'll only be streamed, you'll never actually hold the file itself. Imagine if there was only ONE file at the studio and everyone, from the theaters to Billy Joe Bob in Utah, all just streamed from that. That's next. Remember when you needed a hard drive? That's so early 2000's... Next up, fully ubiquitous devices that can handle all media formats, you watch.
For now, I think this shift is good for indie filmmakers, I've been saying that for a while... and I feel it's been a long time coming. We're inching forward and I like it. It lowers the barriers of entry for distribution and the barrier for content creation is already low. Now, there's no tapes, DVD's or film. No shipping, retail outlets or kiosks. You'll just have a file. Upload it to somewhere and people can get it. Now, we just have to sit back, watch this all unfold and hope that the infrastructure is put in place for us indie guys to use it and profit from it.
Have a great weekend, see you next week!