Dear movie studios,
Congratulations. You’ve just lost $1,000 for the remainder of the year. You’ve cost Fry’s Electronics and Best Buy revenue they’d have received on those sales. Over the next 10 years, some quick math puts your losses in excess of $10,000 from me alone. I buy a lot of movies. The irony here is that the very thing you’ve done to try and increase revenue has cost you. Let’s keep in mind that this is just me. There are 311 million other people in the United States. Let’s see how.
First things first, I bought an Apple TV device and have been on a tear re-encoding much of my Japanese anime to h.264 to watch on my new favorite living room device. This story, however, starts long before tonight. Let’s back up to November, 2011.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 had just come out on blu-ray. Like many other consumers, I opted to buy the version with a digital copy because I like the freedom of carrying my movies on my iPad, iPhone, and the flexibility to watch other places than my blu-ray equipped living room.
I got home and searched for the digital copy disc like I had done so many times before only to find that this was not an iTunes digital copy. This was an UltraViolet digital copy that required special players, separate accounts, and did not play well with my iPad.
We’ll skip the three other movies I bought with UltraViolet for which I was subsequently comped an iTunes code.
Fast forward to March 2012. Shortly after purchasing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I promptly complained again expecting to receive an iTunes code. I had resolved to let this one lie until I found out that I had to create another account with Sony Pictures to redeem my code. You know, the same Sony who lost 77 million customers’ private data.
I’m beginning to see a trend here. I’m not keen on registering for every studio just to redeem their UltraViolet codes.
Now back to today. The Apple TV was really the last straw. Guys, I’m not buying blu-ray discs from you anymore. I’m not buying restrictive physical media just to be told that my digital access expires after 3 years, that I need several other accounts to view my media, or that I need to download additional software before I can download my digital copies. I’m running out of space for blu-ray and DVD discs anyway. The the money you lost is the difference in the physical media ($30-$35 for digital copy blu-rays) and the iTunes version ($14-19 for 1080p).
Last year, Apple TV wasn’t an option for me because of its 720p limitation. Now that the device supports 1080p, things have changed.
One would think you’d learn your lesson. Remember HD DVD? You guys (et. al.) couldn’t agree on standards to unify the two platforms so you lost to blu-ray. Toshiba alone posted a $986 million loss on the format’s flop.
Let’s take a quick look at what happens when you don’t keep up with the times. Kodak couldn’t keep with advances in digital photography and filed for bankruptcy. Yahoo is quickly losing its place in the modern digital world so it sues Facebook for patent infringement. Speaking of, didn’t you try to hit more than 20,000 people with copyright infringement lawsuits yourself?
You see, there’s a reason that CD sales keep dropping while Apple is on its way to becoming a trillion dollar company. Apple got it right. They made legal music downloads so simple and so affordable that it just worked.
Look, your UltraViolet initiative is cute. Keep it if it makes sense, but give consumers a choice. If your UltraViolet service becomes better than iTunes, then people will naturally gravitate toward it. For now, I have news for you. It’s not.
Lessons learned: Give consumers choice and platform independence, don’t launch a half-assed product, and try to actually innovate instead of just trying to keep up. It takes effort but when you get it right, good things happen.