Solving the movie piracy problem: full Steam ahead.
In a previous post, I responded to an issue regarding SOPA and movies. It got me thinking, why is music and gaming different from movies? How do you solve the movie piracy issue? Here's what I came up with:
The idea is to create DRM that both ENABLES the legit user, and hampers the illegitimate ones. My favorite example is Steamworks. Sure, it’s DRM: It limits your concurrent usage on an account (1), requires a password to use, and requires periodic online check-ins. But in exchange, Steam creates all kinds of added value for the customer: anytime downloads, unlimited installations, offline play, quick and automatic patching, mp servers, anti-cheat, forums, friends, achievements, dev access, groups, trading, HATS etc.
The [piracy] issue these days is with movies, not so much music (anymore) or games (because of Steam, above). While they are still pirated, its not to the extent that they used to be.
Part of the reason is that the movie studios recognize an important difference between music/games and movies. Music and games a multi-consumption products. You listen to songs and albums over and over even years after purchase. This means a single song is actually worth hundreds of plays. That value means people are willing to pay for them. Same with games. A single game can have hundreds of playing sessions in it (GTAs, Elder Scrolls games for instance). These are repeat consumption items and have much more inherent value to the consumer.
Movies are different. How many movies do you watch over and over and over? Not many. Only the really good ones that resonate with you for some reason. As a 2 hour investment of time (as opposed to 3 minutes for a song) that you will only use a few times (or once in the case of television shows), the value is much less than the game or song. So the movie companies realize that this decreased value for YOU means that they have to artificially constrain the supply to keep prices high. Thus delayed releases to particular vendors (redbox) or nonreleases to others (netflix). Furthermore, there is little value that can be added to a movie, but they try. That’s why ‘bonus features/content’ is only available on retail disks and not redbox dvds or on netflix. But that ‘value’ hasn’t been worth much more in YEARS. even fewer people watch that stuff than watch the movie more than once or twice. And I doubt anyone cares about the stupid figurines and masks that they put in them these days.
Essentially, my point is this: unless the movie studios can figure out a way to add value to the movies we buy/rent/stream, it will be hard for them to convince the users to put up with the DRM and restrictions. With Steam, we are willing to put up with the limitations because of the benefits of the ecosystem. People were willing to buy DRM’d iTunes music because the value of the system and the players was high enough to make it an almost non-issue.
This balance does not exist with movies yet. It could, but hamstringing netflix and abortive attempts like Ultraviolet won’t cut it. Imagine a Steam for movies: Pay $11/movie. You can download/stream it any time, anywhere, but only one device at a time can access your account’s library, but to any device (console, PC, mobile/tablet). The movie industry would make a KILLING on the sheer volume of movies they would sell. It would be insane. Everyone everywhere could have the epic movie collection they always wanted, using no shelf space. Shoot, include a barcode scanning app so that locating the movie you wanted to buy would be easy. Release the same day as physical media, leaving some of the extras to the disks, including the models and figures.
It just seems so obvious…