Business Week doesn't get it

Much is being made of Disney's reluctance to push its content out to viewers via Internet-based television (IPTV). The Business Week article is typical--full of handwringing and hysterical headlines like "IPTV revolution may be on hold."

Maybe not. Maybe the revolution will proceed very nicely, thank you, without Disney. Disney and all the other Hollywood content providers will likely be last to the party, while independents with fresh ideas and world class production software from Apple running on cheap Macs will create break out shows.

If anyone thinks you really need the big studios to produce content, look at the current spate of reality shows. Not only are most of them really awful, the production values are pretty low. That's one reason why they are so appealing to the studios and networks--they are cheap.

Who hasn't sat on the couch late one night watching this dreck and thought, "Gee, I could make a reality show a whole lot more interesting than this?" You can, and people already are. The fake ads circulating on the Internet are the tip of the iceberg. The Volkswagen spoof was extraordinarily well done, and there are many other examples of high quality content out there.

The entertainment industry is trying to hold back the tide by running like a bunch of crybabies to Congress to buy some new laws so they can prosecute a few more grandmothers and 14 year olds for illegal downloads. Meanwhile, they are forcing Apple to sell their songs for exactly the same price, more or less, as you'd pay for the songs on a CD, while their distribution cost, courtesy of Apple's iTunes store, is now zero.

Movies are next. Look at the Blair Witch project--a hugely successful movie that made tens of millions of dollars. The whole movie was shot with cheap handheld cameras and edited on Macs. Today, the next Blair Witch movie could be delivered via a paid download using BitTorrent, and the makers of the film would pocket even more money.

There is also much handwringing in the TV industry about the business model. TV forces you to watch ads, but Tivo has already broken that model permanently. Ads on the Internet are already well-accepted and getting results. We'll see more options for content--a lot more stuff will move to the pay per view model, if prices are reasonable. As just one example, I'd rather have a quarter from 10 million people for a song I wrote than a dollar from a million people.

Is Hollywood and the music industry going to go away? Absolutely not. There will always be a demand for good, well made, high quality entertainment. But trying to jam the future through the broken lens of a business model pioneered by Thomas Edison is just sad. The entertainment industry needs to grow up and realize the Internet is making the pie bigger, and I'd rather have a piece of the bigger pie than spend all my energy trying to hold on the piece of the small pie.

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