iTunes & the Oscars–Why this Digital Delivery Works


I saw an interesting article over at Apple Insider that said that some of the movie studios were considering an iTunes release for all of the Oscar Best Picture nominated movies this year. Honestly, I really like this idea.  It’s the best I’ve heard in a while.  Here’s why.

I love things like Netflix.  Being able to get the movies I like anywhere I want is really cool. I can sit in the family room with my family and they can watch whatever they want on the big screen TV (except when my Steelers play football!!).  I can grab my iPad, my MacBook (or any other Netflix compatible computing device), plug in a set of headphones and watch MY stuff whenever I want.  I’m still "with" the fam, even though we’re watching different programming. 

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Is iTunes the digital media answer?

 

I can also take that device anywhere in the house (I have Wi-Fi throughout…) or even watch on the train going to and from the office (provided the 3G gods smile upon me and I’ve got a decent data signal).  But if you think about it, that’s where the chink in the armor is…THAT’S where the system falls down. 

Things like Netflix or Blockbuster On Demand are cool; but only work when and where you have solid network coverage.  In Europe, the model is nearly bullet proof, as the EU MANDATED that all wireless carriers create, support and maintain the latest wireless technologies.  Europe has ubiquitous 3G and/or Wi-Fi nearly everywhere. The continent pulses with it; and the coverage and speeds are pretty good, too.

Here in The States, we’re a long way from being close to what the European Union has in terms of Nationwide 3G (let’s not get into 4G and/or HSPA+, kids… there are still some places in the country that don’t have consistent, stable 3G speeds (meaning they’re stuck with EDGE at best), let alone 4G or HSPA+ or better.  I know for a fact, that AT&T built their digital network on top of their old analog infrastructure here in Chicago (which is partly why the coverage is so flakey and unreliable).  The wireless carriers don’t want to spend the BILLIONS of dollars that will be required to properly upgrade their network infrastructures in order to handle all of the increased traffic that devices like the iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, as well as every other smartphone on the planet, will place on their networks without some serious prodding. 

But let me hand off that soap box for another time… There’s more to be said there; but its only tangibly relevant to the subject matter at hand – Digital videos, read: movies, and the Oscars. The issue here is getting advanced copies of nominated films to Academy members so they may view and vote on the films.  In previous years, studios pressed special edition DVD’s and delivered them to voting Academy members.  These DVD’s had special warnings on them physically as well as digitally to destroy and not distribute them; but they often got passed to family and friends.  The contents of those DVD’s was often ripped (the ability to do that is way to easy, way too quick) and then uploaded to torrent sites where they would be instantly pirated around the world, often without the "owning" Academy Member’s knowledge.

The proposed solution is actually rather ingenious.  Distribute one-time use iTunes redemption codes for advanced rental copies of the films that expire 24 hours after redemption.  This way, Academy members can download and watch the movies, and then cast their votes.  The movies have a 24 hour shelf life; and while breaking iTunes DRM isn’t unheard of, the methods are not as easy and aren’t as readily available as ripping a DVD.

Let’s face it, if someone REALLY wants to pirate a movie, they’re going to find a way to do it.  Making it more difficult, not impossible, is and should be the goal of DRM.  Which begs the question – if its good enough for the Oscars, what about the rest of the time?  What about all the other movies out there?

Some people may call me naive, but I believe that most people are good.  People won’t pirate content if they can have it where they want it, when they want it (at an affordable rate). Remember the mobile broadband thing I mentioned above?  Yeah… this is where it comes to play.  If I can get what I want, where I want, when I want; AND I can take it with me for when I can’t get access to the Internet,  the likelihood of me (or anyone, really) pirating something drops DRAMATICALLY. 

Are [we] going to completely eliminate piracy?  While Hollywood may insist on it before they completely adopt a complete digital model, its not very likely.  Its simply not realistic to think that any DRM or copy protection scheme is going to eliminate piracy and allow authorized users to conveniently (read: not completely piss the user off so they never buy from you again) use legally licensed content.  The only way I know of to do that is to NOT release or license the content. Period.

However, digital delivery methods like Apple’s iTunes could (and do for the most part for the movie distribution they do) go a long way to making issues like the Oscar’s Best Picture awards voting, as well as post general release video sales, a huge hit. While I may not be able to view the content on anything else other than my computer or registered iDevice, with so many of them sold and so many people having at least one, I truly wonder if that’s as much of an issue as it was say, 3-5 years ago.  My guess is that it isn’t…

But I’m just sayin’…

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