Monday, September 23, 2002

The Internet is a lousy delivery channel for movies

Dan Gilmore interviews Motion Picture cartel heavy, Jack "Boston Strangler" Valenti on why Hollywood wants to kill the Internet. What emerges is the expected "no, Hollywood likes the Internet, except it must change to a broadcast medium instead of this irritating empowering users thing".

I visited this house in South Dakota that must have had 100 gigs of TV shows and movies on various hard drives scattered around the home network. It also must have had about 200 (bought) DVDs also, piled in every corner of the room. When I asked "why do you buy so many DVDs when you can just download them off the Internet" they said "quality's way better on DVDs".

And there you have it. The internet is a *lousy* medium for distributing video. It's too slow, it's too lossy, and it's too prone to congestion. If you compress video to where it can be sent in under 5 hours through a broadband connection (contrast this with the 20 minute trip to the local blockbusters) it looks awful on the TV and sounds worse. Unlike music, packet based distribution is a poor way to transmit movies. Hollywood has nothing to fear from the Internet, except people are finding out faster that its movies suck.

On an unrelated note, the NY Times has a good article on how broadcast TV is doing fine even as cable viewership grows. People seem continually surprised to learn that they are not broadcast TV's customer, advertisers are, and advertisers want scale, i.e. national distribution.

To be honest, all this talk about "targetted advertising" is kind of balony. If an advertiser knew everything about me, I don't think they would have a clue how to make a better ad. Yeah, you'll probably do better selling detergent to women and trucks to men, but after that I think the marginal return to information starts to fall pretty quickly. So while cable may offer niche eyeballs, the Tides and Fords of the world just want to hit everybody, and national distribution is the way to do it.


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