Downloading Movies – The Big Debate

29 08 2006

For a variety of reasons, I’ve been very intrigued by the downloading movies debate. The latest salvo was launched by Mark Cuban here. I give him an enormous amount of credit for doing it – there was sure to be push back coming through strong. From the consumer side that I’ll focus on, Cuban basically expounds, in so many words, that it’s too difficult to download more than 1 movie or movies for other people. Two main counterpoints come through in the comments:

Counterpoint #1: “No, it really isn’t that hard to download over the Internet.”

This is really just a matter of opinion. It’s very clear in Cuban’s post that he doesn’t believe that downloading won’t suit the needs of many – it just won’t suit the needs of the majority.  It’s not important that YOU don’t think it’s inconvenient, rather that there’s a huge majority that it’s just easy enough for yet.

It’s just not easy enough right now, period. Two mouse clicks and 24 hours to get any movie through the mail (rent, maybe a few more clicks and/or hours to fully buy the movie) – doesn’t get much easier than that right now.

Counterpoint #2: “You’re coming off as a technological nincompoop.”

Who cares? I’m a techie at heart, but I only like technology that makes my life easier, saves me time in the long run or gives me something that I wouldn’t otherwise been able to experience. Maybe that’s a personal philosophy. A cell phone (preferably smart phone) and a bluetooth headset – how brilliant and convenient.

There’s a technology aspect that idealists would like to see. I would love to see that too – 60,000 movies truly on-demand, who can argue with that? The truth is that we’re not there yet – and the basic point is that there are many stumbling blocks that will take forever to knock down until we get to this idealistic point.

I’m really a convenience freak. Ultimately, make my life easier and better and you’ll win my business. I recently debated the merits of tagging. I get tagging, but it’s just barely loses out on my convenience test. I’d rather rely on Google to tell me what’s what instead of having to attach words to everything from photos to e-mails to links, etc. I’ll punt on this point for now.

Apply this now to movies. You have to apply the mother test for ease of use, but another (and actually LESS important – because it’s my preferred test and my test is not as important as the general population test) test is the convenience test. Is the time/trouble spent doing the task worth the pleasure/enlightenment/education/etc that results? For most, this is another test that generally doesn’t pass…

As an idealist, I do believe that keeping the status quo should never be the end goal. I don’t think that overall Cuban is making that point, but he is recommending that movie marketers understand not to make downloading an alternative to buying the movie. I think this is true from a business aspect, but a consumer-centric philosophy says that each and every person can now choose the delivery options that make the most sense for them. Right now, it’s just easier to buy or rent the movies.

Another related, weak argument would be defending a longer timeline for movie download domination in the false belief that you’re core business won’t change. Again, I don’t think Cuban is doing this and major (and smart) players don’t really do this either – they’re just pragmatic for the time being until there’s a game-changer (and maybe someone is inventing it).

As great as the iPod is – even the CD business demise is overstated. And the movie busines is a bigger beast – screens just get bigger and bigger. Until the experience is easy, convenient and magic all at the same time, movie downloading still has a way to go…

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2 responses

1 09 2006
Apple and Wal-mart: A feisty relationship « Startup in San Diego

[…] In my previous post,  I explained why I agree with Mark Cuban that movie downloads have some major hurdles.  From the Business Week article, it’s clear that movie studios are stalling.  So far, only Disney has committed and Wal-mart’s reaction was to threaten not to distribute Disney’s High School Musical after it was released initially only on iTunes.  This has movie studios supposedly spooked and it’s even reported that Fox and Lions Gate will only join if other studios join as well. […]

7 09 2006
Amazon.com Launches Movie Download Service « Startup in San Diego

[…] As I’ve already explained here, movie downloads first and foremost need to get to the big screen in the living room to become a really big market.  Apparently, the DRM looks to be an ongoing issue and battle.  That being said, it will be interesting to watch Amazon.com and Apple duke it out for download domination. […]

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