Opinion – “Piracy and Hollywood’s Need to Adapt” by Dean Searle

Why bother making criminals of those that seek out your material…when you can make them customers?

Friday has rolled around; you’ve been browsing IMDB the previous week and are anticipating the release of a film that caught your eye. But, when you check your local listings, it is nowhere to be seen. You go online and see the rave reviews it’s getting and become increasingly more frustrated as every theater you check in your country has no trace of this supposed gem.

So, you go back to IMDB, check the release information again. Then, you see it. It was released overseas today, not in your country. No problem, you think; I’ll just wait for it to arrive here. So, you scroll down the page and the information you desire dances with your pupils. This can’t be right you say, you rub your tired eyes, refresh the page, but to no avail. The information is correct; you will get to see this movie on the big screen…..in 3 months. Or worse yet, there isn’t even a release date for your country. Maybe just not yet, or maybe never and you’ll have to try and acquire the DVD from a Thai site in 3 months time. Or, 5 years time when a European country eventually releases it.

But, you won’t wait for this. You have access to the internet. On to your favourite torrent site you go and search its database you do. There is a DVD screener available to download! Problem solved. “Download torrent” you click and you experience the movie within the same month as everyone else.

The same concept applies to TV shows. Why should I, in the UK, wait years to catch up to Dexter when the US is getting all that bloody goodness now? And my twitter feed is blowing up with all the latest revelations, so it’s unlikely it’ll be fresh when if ever, my country gets it. We live in the age of the internet. The WORLDWIDE web. We use it to connect to people and businesses around the planet. Why can’t media adapt to this model? I too, am against piracy but when companies make it difficult for you to view their content, is it any wonder that people take advantage of an easy solution?

I would quite happily pay to see independent/foreign/Hollywood films as I do currently. But how can I if I am not giving the option to do so? I have a TV license and the UK version of cable. However, I personally rarely view the content on it. The rest of my family does. But I do enjoy quality US television. Why can I not pay for US cable? There would be too many issues with rights etc to get it on my UK TV stations at the same time. Fair enough. But, the internet is a thing; in case you didn’t know.

The US has online streaming services where you pay a subscription to watch their shows online. We can send money wirelessly to other countries now, we can view things uploaded in Japan on an American website. So, with these entire puzzle pieces laid out in front of us and an easy to follow instruction to link them together, what is stopping the world from creating a subscription service for other countries?

In the film world, a similar model could be created. Not everyone is bothered about the experience of the theatre, the wonder of the big screen etc. So rather than alienating them (and your profits), cater to them as well. Make incentives to encourage the theatre experience certainly, but allow a B plan for customers that do not wish to make that journey. Again, the internet does indeed exist and can do amazing things.

Movies are released to download and on DVD/Blu-ray several months after their cinema release date. This is for the buyer to keep and re-watch as many times as they wish. That system should stay as it is. The ability to rent the movie via online streaming should have a drastically shorter waiting time. Or none at all for certain films. In cases of lower budget or independent/foreign films that get limited releases, why not release them online the same day? They are only showing in 10 cinemas in the whole country anyway, what about little old English me who has heard all the hype of this latest festival darling, only to discover it has a limited release in the US and maybe 2 showings in London. I become frustrated that it is out of my reach. Or is it? I wonder if there are DVD screeners online……

See the cycle? Now if I was to go on a special website, owned by the film’s production company maybe, or a third party or whoever else. I search for this little movie and see I can download and stream it for let’s say, a 75% fee of the usual ticket prices. But even if I download, I cannot keep it. I have to wait for that option; which I’m fine with. Like a rental, I have a few days to view it. With the lesser films, they could be released this way the same week as theaters, not the same day unless the producers choose to but a few days or a week later. This would definitely increase revenue for these types of films, how is that in any way a bad thing? Films are made to be seen; especially independent ones so why not try and get it seen by as much of the world as you can?

Now, with the Hollywood films/blockbusters, the model would vary. I would suggest a month long waiting period before it becomes available online. Still, at a 25% decrease of theater prices. Also, like cinema releases, it would have a runtime on how long it is available through that medium. So, when it is removed from theater showings, it is too removed from the online service. As normal, we then all go into the waiting period for the to-keep option of Blu-rays, DVDs and downloads.

Returning to the subject of television, an online service whereby each episode is uploaded a day or two later than its US airing would be ideal. Other than paying per viewing, like you would for movies, you would subscribe to this “online cable network”. Just like you would if you were actually living in the US, except you’re not; so you do it online. Each TV subscription network would create an online counterpart, open to other countries. Like what HBOGo is now, but I could it access here from England. The same could happen for ABC, The CW etc. Packages could be made, including multiple stations, just like what happens for your TV bill.

Now, the obvious argument to this television-online network is that it would be the death of non-US networks. Not the case. Again, always make use of incentives. The international service would have a higher cost. I am far too limited on my knowledge in this area to contribute a possible number or percentages but I have no doubt that an acceptable amount could be determined. Naturally, the home countries cable would be cheaper as the viewer would be willing to wait for their networks to air these international shows or they simply aren’t bothered about seeing them.

But, there are many people like myself who are passionate about these shows and would be willing to go the extra mile and pay to see them alongside their US friends. There IS a market for this; the very fact that illegal downloading exists proves this. Why bother making criminals of those that seek out your material…when you can make them customers?

The internet is here. It is here to stay. Yes, there will always be illegal activity, no matter how much you try to cater to our needs. However, many are only inconveniencing your profits because you’re refusing to offer us a simple convenience. Adapt to our ever changing media world and reap the profits and happiness of many more customers. Or continue trying to fight it and cling to old methods, increasing our frustrations, and in turn; illegal activity. We are making it clear we want your content. The most simple concept of business is find out what people want and then find a way to make them pay for it. The next level is to make them want and pay for it repeatedly. You know what we want, I’ve just explained a base plan on how give it to us and make money. What more do you need? The solution is there, it just needs to be utilized.

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