Why Release "Windows" Are Futile, Archaic and Hostile

In a December 31st, 2012 post, Brad Hill (a former VP of AOL) argues that "[m]edia companies that [still] distribute their products as if [the country and timezone borders of the Old World of media distribution] still held sway seem increasingly clueless and hostile to their ever more empowered audiences."

"Theatrical release windows were developed in the movie industry to delineate markets and motivate purchases from consumers in different situations and preferences. Each of the main release stages (movie theater, on-demand, DVD, streaming) was meant to apply uniquely to a demand profile, with minimal overlap. But the walls between release scenarios have been eroded by technology, creating a messy overlap of the values previously contained within each scenario."

Two examples:

"Home theaters have eaten into the exhibition business (movie theaters) thanks to HD screens as a middle-class commodity. Two legacy values of the theater experience -- big screens and great visuals -- have been swiped into the home. The average size of a newly purchased television is 44 inches. Those vast panels are driven primarily by pricey cable/satellite subscriptions, further disincentivizing their owners from driving through a rainy night to buy a $12 theater seat in which they can drink a $6 soda."

"Mobile devices have undermined the on-demand movie business in hotel rooms. Here, the legacy allure of in-room movie rentals was founded on the desperation of a trapped, bored, unequipped traveler. Mobile connectivity solves that. Even if the hotel charges for WiFi (an indicator that you might have chosen the wrong hotel), paying for the platform instead of a single movie puts an unlimited number of in-room entertainment options onto a personal screen."

"Both of these examples have matured over a long gestation period, gradually disrupting the very concept of release windows."

"The business irony is that migrated consumers -- those who have detached to some degree from the legacy viewing modes -- can be monetized more effectively than old-school cable/DVR watchers. When you catch up with back programming either in a cable company's on-demand locker or NBC's full-episode viewing app, you are forced to watch the commercials. No fast-forward in those controlled environments."

"In the perpetual balancing act of supply and demand, it is crucial in the long run for suppliers to understand the nuances of demand. It is not enough for media owners to fathom that people love to watch movies and TV shows. Owners must understand how people want to consume media, and the cultural environment in which they do so. Failure to understand the matrix of supply and demand eventually becomes failure to hold your audience and sell your show."

Thanks to Ira Deutchman for the link.

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