Being in the middle of a stressful move and a bit of a transitional period in our lives, my wife and I decided to attempt to destress tonight and went to see American Gangster with a couple friends of ours. And despite the movie being about the cracking of an international heroin distribution chain, I couldn't help but see the parallels between the film and the Hollywood Writer's Strike.
When it comes right down to the very core of things, the Writer's Strike comes about as a result of inefficiencies in the film distribution chain. Or depending on which angle you view it from, efficiencies on the studios' part. Creative content from the writers' moves up the chain to the big studio's and networks with lightning speed, but on the way back down has so many stops to make on the way to the final consumer, you and me, that the writer's end up with pennies for their work. Or in the case of internet downloads, absolutely nothing.
In American Gangster, we see the same situation with the national Drug Enforcement agency entering the drug distribution chain, accepting bribes from dealers and cutting and then selling confiscated product back onto the street in weaker concentrations. As a result, the big boys running the drug biz in Harlem are left unable to brand their product or reap the financial rewards from having sole control over its sale.
As web video evolves, and more effective monetization of said video is created via user-friendly advertising or whatever the case may be, content creators will be able to cut out the middlemen that cut into the profits they should gain from the use of their product. Frank Lucas did exactly this in the movie, by going directly to the source of the drug supply and via a connection in the American military stationed in Vietnam, having it shipped directly to his doorstep. This means he makes one payment to the supplier, receives nearly 100% pure heroin which he can then brand as a top quality product and sell for less than the weaker products of his competitors, because he gets it direct. Hopefully this will be the business model that evolves from web video. No middlemen, efficient distribution chains, and greater payouts for the original creators of the content.
On the other hand, financial rewards reaped from more effective business models can lead to greed. In Frank Lucas' case, this greed rewarded him with 15 years in jail, but only after he went back to the drawing board with his new middleman, the prosecutor and later defense attorney, and came up with yet a new plan.
This seems to be the nature of business cycles as well. Don't be surprised if the Hollywood Writer's Strike leads to revolution in the film industry and fundamentally changes how we receive and watch film and TV. And fundamentally changes how it's created and how the creators are compensated for it. But then again, don't be surprised if the industry cycles back once again and the middlemen find a new way to enter the picture that once again entices the content creators. It's the nature of business and the business of film is no exception.
20th Century Fox seems to be moving in the right direction with the November 20th DVD release of Live Free or Die Hard. The movie comes bundled with Fox's new Digital Copy technology which allows owners to duplicate 2 copies of the film for personal use. A huge drawback though is that the technology only works with PC's and Microsoft's Playsforsure-approved media devices, so iPod users, most importantly, are out of luck. The technology requires no additional software on your computer, and one copy can go to your hard drive and the other on a Playsforsure device by using a 16-digit serial number included with the DVD. Keep in mind that there is nothing to stop a user from copying the movie multiple times from the hard drive.
Warner Home Video is doing something similar with the December 11th release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenixby offering a digital download that will be packaged with the DVD. Personally I think this is an intelligent business decision on the part of Fox and Warner, but Jupiter Research VP Michael Gartenberg believes "it's just not enough" and that "if it doesn't work on the iPod, then it doesn't exist". It may not be a substantial change in the stand on piracy, but it shows the studios are beginning to adapt and move to a place that meets the consumer's needs more effectively. This definitely won't happen overnight. Kudos to Fox and Warner from this TVSnob.
The Consumer Electronics Association has conducted a study revealing that 22% of Americans will "do nothing" in response to the digital crossover from analog transmissions scheduled for February 17, 2009. Those surveyed only included analog TV owner's who had free over-the-air broadcasts, of which 23% said they would subscribe to a satellite or cable service, 33% said they would use the government-issued $40 coupon to purchase a digital-to-analog converter so they could continue using the analog TV with digital signals, and 23% plan to purchase a new digital TV. Of course the remaining 22% include those consumers who don't plan to react at all.
The Consumer Electronics Association has estimated that between 22 and 28 million American households will require a digital-to-analog converter to be ready for the crossover and a huge segment of the estimated population won't be ready when early 2009 rolls around. Given that, prepare to be inundated with ads reminding you to get ready for the big day for the next year.
We know we've already said we won't cover the Hollywood Writer's Strike in depth because it's really not needed, but so many creative minds on strike come up with some great stuff? Why can't writer's be compensated for internet downloads of their content? Because the major networks aren't making any money from the internet (for more on this, watch the short video below). strikingwriter2007 uploaded this classic entitled, Voices of Uncertainty, to YouTube and I encourage you to click play and watch the network big wigs eat their words.
Want the writers' point of view on the reasoning behind the strike? Check out the clip below from the Writer's Guild Of America.
Planning on a few electronics upgrades this holiday season? Planning on junking some old electronics and want to save a little money on your Christmas shopping? Then head over to Costco!
The retailer has teamed up with Greensight Technologies in order to pay you to recycle you old electronics! But here's the catch: they only pay in Costco store credit, which isn't a bad thing as Costco has a great and varied selection of stuff. Just not as good as cold, hard cash.
Right now the recycling program will take your old laptops, desktop PC's, LCD monitors, mp3 players, camcorder, and more and if you want to know how much store credit you could expect for your trade-in, the partners have a webpage set-up that'll let you calculate the trade-in value of your item based on it's model and features.
The NBC Direct beta has gone live over the weekend. The free service from NBC allows users to download full episodes of popular shows such as 30 Rock and The Office. Being located in Canada, I couldn't access the service when I attempted to give it a try, similar to Canadian exclusion from NBC's video platform Hulu. From what I've heard so far though, the service sucks.
Setting up your computer to use NBC Direct is a pain as it only works with the latest version of Internet Explorer, with .NET framework, and the latest Windows Media Player update. Mac users can't use the service and even parts of the US apparently can't access it either. Show episodes which are available for 7 days after they originally air are deleting from your computer 48 hours after you begin to watch them and of course they all contain advertising. I'm not exactly sure what NBC hopes to accomplish by eliminating so many potential viewers from their new platforms, but if they hope they will be supported by ad revenues, this is definitely not the way to do it. Not a problem for this Canadian though. There's always BitTorrent and YouTube. Nothing like ad-free NBC content.
It looks like Apple may be getting ready to launch a movie service on iTunes sometime in the near future. In the latest iTunes 7.5 update, blogger Evan DiBiase noticed a few changes in the code from the last iTunes version. These following 8 lines were found in the coding of iTunes version 7.5 and definitely speak volumes about Apple's plans for the future:
GET VOD ACCOUNT SELECTION LIST
I would assume VOD stands for video-on-demand, and I'm sure Apple TV owners would be very pleased if a new service is being planned for them. One of the problems with the Apple TV is the lack of movie content on iTunes, so this would be a smart move on Apple's part. There has been no announcement by Apple regarding an iTunes movie service and no response to this find either, but the question remains whether or not Apple can find a price point that would actually attract consumers when it is so easy to find free movie content on the web already?
The Evan Series Via TechCrunch
I've been busy trying to put together the holiday guide which was posted today (more to come), so I've been a little behind on keeping you up to date with the goings-on in the world of television. So here's a quick, to the point recap:
Warner Bros. Television is currently negotiating with Hulu to bring WBTV content to the News Corp./NBC joint platform according to The Hollywood Reporter. The majority of the content would come from the Warner Bros. library as they own the rights to a fair proportion of that material, but some newer shows could make it online as well. WBTV Group president Bruce Rosenblum stated that "it's more likely than not that we're going to make a deal".
In other Hulu-related news, Peter Kafka of the Silicon Valley Insider took a shot at the platform over some Saturday Night Live iPhone ads, a one of which never was aired on the show due to time restraints. They were nowhere to be found on Hulu or YouTube, although they were apparently hidden on the 5th page of videos on the SNL website. By far the most views these hilarious clips have got is thanks to techie blog Gizmodo. The clip that never aired has been viewed over 100000 times since the blog got their hands on it yesterday. No word yet whether NBC has taken action yet or not.
Do you want to be on TV? We haven't covered the Hollywood Writer's Strike here at TVSnob as we feel there are already plenty of sites doing a fine job of keeping us up to date, but TV networks are most likely to soon give the green light to more reality shows and non-scripted programs as primetime shows run out of original material and begin broadcasting reruns. Startup GotCast, currently in beta, is set up as a meeting point for casting directors looking for talent, and aspiring actors who can set up a profile page with personal info and uploading images and video. Take advantage of the strike, this could be chance!
For all of you Lost fans suffering from strike-induced withdrawals, ABC.com will begin airing Lost minisodes today. The minisodes are mini-stories, collectively called "Missing Pieces" and tonight's episode, "The Watch", is based on Matthew Fox's character.
Barack Obama, who guest starred as himself on Saturday Night Live last night, was definitely funnier after the show than during it. And here's why. Liz Gannes from NewTeeVee decided to see if she could find the clip on NBC's new platform Hulu, only to find nothing. Not that it matters much, since most of us don't have beta invites and those outside of the US can't access that platform anyways. Digging further, she realized that she couldn't find the Obama SNL content on open Hulu distribution partners AOL or MSN either. The official NBC.com Saturday Night Live video index: once again, nothing. But where she did find the Obama clip was on Obama's YouTube station BarackObamadotcom! Now if you remember, NBC pulled their content from YouTube a couple of weeks back in anticipation of the Hulu launch and they've been pulling a heck of alot of clips uploaded by users in the past few days. Will NBC order Obama to remove the video today? Now that would be funny!
Interesting Body Designs Tend To Be The Only Way To Stoke Interest For PC's In Japan
USAToday reported that the Japanese PC market is shrinking thanks to demand for technologies such as flat-panel TV's. PC shipments have fallen for 5 consecutive quarters in Japan, and the popularity of mobile technologies in the country is eliminating the need for PC's altogether. The Japanese are way ahead of us in mobile internet usage and with digital cameras and movies downloaded straight to TV's, the personal computer can be largely bypassed. Not surprisingly the most popular exhibits at consumer electronics shows in Asia are HDTV displays while computer technologies tend to be largely absent of traffic.
Japan has a history of setting technological trends. Is this something to be expected in the Western world?