Yet another 4k content delivery system...
Yes, I know, there are a few of these posts already. I'm making this post anyway :)
Sometimes it seems as if the media cartel is determined to kill itself. The semi-interdependent system of production, distribution, and network seems a fragile means of doing things.The leaders of that system seem hellbent on riding their train until the wheels fall off, the undercarriage slags and fuses to the track, the fuel tank threatens to catch on fire, and everything blows sky high. There have been small measures of progress, but more often the system destroys efforts at change and competition, and limits the success of such efforts with such gems as the recent bills to end or neuter community fiber networks. With behaviors like these and many more besides, I don't believe that content downloading general, or streaming high def content in particular is ready for prime-time with this generation, despite viability in select regions. That leaves us with two options: kiosk-based delivery, and disc-based delivery.
Now, I do like the idea of the "red box" type kiosk delivery system that was pitched in another thread, so I won't go into detail about that here. The most I'll say about it is that it would almost necessitate a single "region code" for content, as well as user-based licensing rather then device-based licensing, and the cooperation of the various industries involved; many of which don't see eye to eye. So I see it happening in the future, but not right away. That leaves us with disc based content delivery. I'll point to two recent ratifications: the h265 standard, and the BDXL standard. These two standards, packaged together, get us most of the way to a viable system; though some changes to the current model would have to be made.
Blu-ray has a number of benefits, but the requirements also impose a number of limitations. I'm going to propose some creative solutions here. Now, the space requirements for a 1080p movie tend to be 15 to 30GB; the rest of the disc space is taken up by unskippable trailers, special features, and other frivolous things like BD-live. An UHD 4k movie using the h265 format can be expected to take up 2-8x the amount of disc space as a 1080p movie using h264. That means an UHD movie could take up anywhere from 30 to 120GB. This is just within the realm of the acceptable for BDXL mastering, if certain conditions are met.
First, disc equals movie and dynamic trailers. No more fluff on the disc, just give us the movie in it's full bit-rate glory; no trailers, no features, no fancy menus. That means no unskippable trailers. But wait!, cry the movie studios, however will we tell people about our other movies?!?! Simple. Build every new blu-ray player with embedded storage space, set it up so that it downloads trailers when the device is on standby. When you turn the player on, it automatically plays a trailer while waiting for the disc to load; once the disc is loaded, your movie starts playing automatically. Once a trailer has been viewed, it is deleted and a new one is downloaded during standby. All other extra content related to the feature film goes on a companion disc. Simple, clean, and saving us all from having to watch years old trailers ever again!
Second, user-based licensing and DRM. Rumor has it that Sony is planning to implement this for the PS4, and Steam already uses it to great success for gaming. Many hardware manufacturers have been working on so-called "Smart TVs", usually based on Android; and of course Apple is always rumored to have something in the works. Given all of that, it seems like plugging some sort of universal DRM into a multi-developer user ID platform would be a good way to strike a medium; though not necessarily a happy one. I envision it working something like this: Smartphone app + NFC (or Bluetooth) = automatic pairing for login info and user profile ~> set top box + BDXL disc = play trailer ~> watch movie. Naturally, in family households, there would be children and a spouse, so there would need to be some form of sublet licensing. Such subletting would also need the ability to be taken independent of the primary user (children do grow up.) Such a system would also be ideal for the kiosk-based delivery system, or DVR encoding of movies for disc-less loading.
Last, release model. Region codes and staggered releases are a source of vexation for consumers worldwide. These two factors drive many whom might otherwise not to pirate films. There really isn't much explanation needed here, as simplification would benefit all parties, and the changes listed above would still allow regional differences in content, such as localized trailers, and downloadable local language tracks, and subtitles.
I've put some thought into this, so let me know what you think. Personally, I think this is where we are headed, though I do expect the media cartel to try to impose arbitrary limitations.