So what do I mean by that statement? What I mean to say is that downloading of HD movies for viewing is a great concept, BUT it will not be realized anytime soon. Now that the HD disc war is finally over, with BluRay the declared winner, the next step people are looking towards is getting rid of the physical media all together. That would be a wonderful thing; to be able to pick and choose a movie and have it downloaded to your TV set for viewing at anytime. But there are several problems….
First you have to look at the studios and the corporate profits. And this involves DRM (Digital Rights Management). The best way so far to slow down the illegal copying of movies is to have an actual physical medium that the movie resides on. By controlling that physical disk (buying, tracking, copy prevention) the studios have a way to control where it plays and how much money they get per viewing. As soon as you eliminate any physical disk and have a straight digital file somewhere, that removes the control over where and how the movies plays. Consequently it has a drastic effect on profits earned on that movie. The money inflow is no longer controlled by physical things, which is against any current business model.
So you say that the business model needs to change in order to make money from this new-age of movie downloads. Ok, I can agree with that, but change does not happen easily, especially since it involves eliminating a currently profitable business model and replaces it with an unknown. Nothing business school would ever approve of.
For an example, let’s just say that you can get the studio’s to agree to a new model. What other challenges remain? Well what about the Internet providers? They want a piece of the action, too. Since you’ll be taking up precious bandwidth, the ISPs will want to charge for this extra usage, and they are. Comcast is now facing criticism at the FCC regarding the intentional slowing down of internet download speeds when they detect large file downloads. I can see their point in this since large downloads take away from the overall download bandwidth being shared between others in the same neighborhood. This is going to drag on for a long time and if they prevail, all the other ISPs will follow with their own form of download traffic management. I mean, you can’t blame Comcast. They are stopping a direct competitor to their own Pay-Per-View movies over cable.
And if the DRM gets cracked, then people will have unprotected HD copies of movies being shared across the Internet. That means no more profits on that movie, EVER. This is not something a movie studio wants to have happen.
Apple seems to have solved this problem with their AppleTV box. It has a very strong DRM embedded into each movie that has not been cracked. I believe that Apple can succeed in solving this one area, but because they are not an ISP, they will not be able to solve the problem of download speeds. The entire business model of AppleTV relies on the availability of relatively inexpensive Internet downloads. If the ISPs start charging money for downloading movies, then the costs per movie are going to skyrocket and the AppleTV business model will fail.
So until the FCC mandates low cost high speed Internet downloads, or some company offers it without restrictions, the world of HD downloadable movies will be far out of reach.
mark (at) wiredinc com