People Just Want to Have Fun (and Access to Content)

Ivo Jansch, in a post on his site:

So I watched the Blu-ray disk. Once. It took ages to load and it featured un-skippable FBI warnings treating me as a potential criminal. I ended up going back to my illegal download of Inception which is stored in my digital library. Quality is lower than the blu-ray, but at least I can watch it conveniently when and wherever I can and it doesn't treat me like a criminal.

I've had several conversations with friends in the tech industry about the problems surrounding access to content such as movies, television, and music. There really aren't any technical problems that need to be overcome. We do in fact have the technology for people to easily find content, pay for it, and enjoy it. Why, then, is consuming content so darn difficult? Business reasons.

Quite simply, the media companies haven't been willing to offer content the way that people want to pay for and consume content.

As Jansch notes in his personal account, the music industry is far ahead of the movie and television industries with respect to offering convenience and selection for consumers. We can largely attribute this to Apple's involvement in getting content available for the iTunes music store. Now consumers can easily purchase music or (as is becoming more and more common) stream content via services such as Pandora and Spotify.

The television industry is in an odd state. Netflix has done a lot to help bring content as an 'all-you-can-eat' model that has served consumers well when they want to binge watch old episodes of Star Trek or the latest season of House of Cards. Unfortunately, there still remain many roadblocks on the path to television nirvana. It's not surprising that Game of Thrones is consistently the most pirated television show. HBO just isn't making things easy for consumers. It isn't possible for a consumer to purchase access to a single television series. Additionally, it's generally not possible to get HBO without also having a cable television subscription. The hurdles that a consumer has to overcome to get legitimate access to a television series should not be greater than the comparatively few hurdles that have to be overcome to pirate a television series.

What can be said of the movie industry? This is by far the industry that just doesn't 'get it'. Redbox and the aforementioned Netflix did much to make accessing movie content more convenient. Unfortunately, the movie industry has done everything it can to stymie and undermine both Redbox and Netflix in order to protect old business models. Redbox often does not have access to the latest movie releases until 28 days after the movie has been available on DVD/Blu-ray. Netflix has seen its movie library chipped away bit by bit by ever increasing licensing fees (spurring Netflix to create its own award-winning content). There is no 'all-you-can-eat' movie viewing experience. 'Purchasing' movies via most services (e.g. Amazon Instant Video) is an exercise in pain. It's surprising that movie studios think a digital 'who-knows-if-I-will-have-access-to-this-next-year' copy is worth the same amount of money as a DVD/Blu-ray disc that can be held onto for years to come or be sold to finance future content purchases.

Why was Napster so popular? A small part of that popularity was because users didn't have to pay, but by far the biggest reason that Napster was so popular is because it was so darn convenient.

Folks, people just want to have fast, simple, safe access to content. Provide it, and people will pay for it.