Iâ€™ve spent part of the last few days pondering a long LAT story on the movie industryâ€™s ever-evolving home video plansâ€”the nexus of DVDs, Blu-ray, on demand, etc. etc.
I wanted to get all the varying strands of the plans straight in my headâ€”Disney tinkering with DVD release windows, Netflixâ€™s new download box, the slow growth of Blu-rayâ€¦.
Then I realized something. I didnâ€™t want to get it all straight.
I didnâ€™t care.
The problem with every one of the plans now under way is that they are about what the studios or cable or computer companies want to do, or whatâ€™s good for them.
The solution is to give consumers something thatâ€™s good for them.
I think the papers should turn the coverage around. The stories shouldnâ€™t be about what Fox, or Apple, or Comcast, want to do. They should be about whether what the companies are doing measures up to what people might actually want or use.
After more than a decade dealing with all of the different entities that have provided me with mediaâ€”various species of cable and satellite and ISPs, Netflix and the iTunes Store, Kozmo and Hulu, and all manner of other crude on-demand and pay-per-view servicesâ€”Iâ€™ve pretty much reached my limit. So I thought about what I wanted, and came up with a helpful prÃ©cis of what the benchmarks should be for digital distribution of movies and TV shows:
- I want to choose movies or TV shows to watch, when I want, from my TV screen. I want complete histories of shows (not just the most recent seasons, or part of the most recent seasons, or just some random, haphazard samples), and complete filmographies of directors and stars. (I really donâ€™t care, by way of example, that Woody Allen didnâ€™t make Take the Money and Run for United Artists, and itâ€™s not part of the UA package. If Iâ€™m in the mood to watch an early Woody Allen movie, I want Take the Money and Run on the list.)
- I want a selection system based on a large database, with accurate capsule descriptions and intelligent keywording. I want it all done on an open system to allow networking with other movie and TV fans and browsing other folksâ€™ recommendation and reviews.
- The database should be arranged on long pages and coded to preload, so paging through choices doesnâ€™t involve five- or ten-second-long delays each time you hit the â€œnext pageâ€ command.
- The download should start immediately and shouldnâ€™t be delayed with promotional crap, bullshit corporate logos, legal enunciations, FBI warnings, previews, or anything in French.
- The viewing window doesnâ€™t have to be indefinite. Letâ€™s be reasonable. You arenâ€™t always able to watch a given movie in one sitting. Six monthsâ€”thatâ€™s reasonable. If I pay five bucks to watch a movie, I should be able to have it around for six months.
- If I buy the movie for download, I want the DVD extras, too, all accessible as the movie is playing, so I can switch easily to the filmmakersâ€™ commentary, for example.
- Ixnay on the oxes-bay. (NetFlix and Apple, please take note.) I donâ€™t want to attach another damn cord to the TV set, and I certainly don’t need another fucking remote. The studios and cable companies should agree on an open-standard cable box that will incorporate a new universal download system and not require me to use up another HDMI plug. (Many households are already juggling cable boxes, video game consoles and Blu-ray players.) Create the service, create the standards, and incorporate it into the cable box.
- Integrate the on-demand service with cable such that it doesnâ€™t take three minutes and the pressing of nine different buttons to stop watching a movie and check CNN for a bit. The system should be designed to be used in real-world conditions.
- Do all of that, and then name your price. I’ll pay it.
The problem with this fantasy is that it requires all of the companies involved to play nice with a view toward making things easy on consumers. How they do it I donâ€™t care, but itâ€™s hard to envision the critical mass that all of the industries, collectively, need occurring if they donâ€™t.