The Solution Against Big Content

As much as I’d like to sell my sci-fi script to Hollywood, at the same time I hate all the lawyering and politics behind it. I now read that Warner Bros will make its DVDs arrive even later on Netflix than usual, and that Apple, like Google & Amazon, is unable to secure deals for TV/movie content in any manner that makes financial sense. Big Content is trying to keep back progress as much as it can, by only licensing its property to traditional outlets.

There is only one solution for this chicken-and-egg TV problem: make your own content. And when you start winning, Hollywood will come and beg you to carry their content! Netflix is the first company to go this route by re-creating content: by shooting its own TV series. Google has already pledged $100mil via YouTube for original web TV series too. Apple hasn’t initiated anything of sorts so far, neither it’s in its style to do so.

There are three possibilities here:
1. These original series will only make a blip, and nothing really changes.
2. Big Content gets a clue and embraces the new mediums for lower licensing costs.
3. Studios abroad start creating Hollywood-worthy content, for cheaper, and initiate a cultural revolution that brings American media to its knees.

Of course, option #1 is the most likely one to happen unfortunately. But it doesn’t have to be this way. I believe that if all four (Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Google) come together to share costs, they can put $1 billion aside per year for the creation of TV series and movies. Content that would be shot and post-produced abroad, using mostly non-Union unknown American actors & writers/directors. Unlike media companies that are on the brink of financial disaster, these tech companies HAVE money to spend.

As I’ve written before, I truly believe that great quality television can be produced for $1mil per episode, or even cheaper, when shooting abroad on a place like the Balkans, South America, or China. As for a full-length movie, with enough talent you can do miracles from anywhere $1mil to $3mil per movie. $1 billion dollars per year gives enough room for 50 ten-episode-per-season TV series, and 250 movies (or 100 movies with higher budget). Of course, for higher quality content, fewer of these can be made, but still, you can do a lot with $1 bil if you’re smart.

Such content would be free from MPAA and FCC regulations too, allowing for free expression and radical ideas in the work, something that’s missing from networked TV series and movies today in the US. Not to mention that duration of an one-hour TV show can go back at 55 mins, instead of the laughable 42 minutes we get today (a few location/user-specific ads can run at the beginning of the show, but not during). And there won’t be any reason for streaming IP restriction for any country! As long as a show is released, everyone with a smart TV everywhere in the world gets it!

Such a large amount of on-demand products is enough to bring people to these new “smart” TV devices, they are enough to make the viewers “cut the cord“. In the beginning, they will be few doing so, but as the numbers will grow, the cable TV industry will start to crumble, because their sourcing media companies still operate with huge budgets that are unsustainable, while at the same time their customers would wither away. Those who will still remain subscribed would mainly be sports viewers, but if in year 2012 you’re still avid fan of professional sports, in my mind, you’re entertainment-retarded (hate away).

Bottom line is that content is king. And I believe that Apple/Google/Amazon/Netflix can go for such a pact together. But they have to be united for this to work. Hollywood would have no alternative but to join away eventually. There would be 3-5 years of adjustment for everyone, and a few flying lawsuits of course, but eventually, content must be freed one way or another. If common sense doesn’t work with Big Content, if enough money on the table doesn’t work either, then competition WILL work. Have the motherfucking sharks in Hollywood die off of a streaming starvation.


Brent wrote on January 6th, 2012 at 6:16 PM PST:

Yeah, Google engineers can surely just create an algorithm to write great scripts, and Apple engineers can probably create great directors in Objective C. Let’s let Yahoo write the code for the key grip (so they can feel like we’re still paying attention). What to do with all the unemployed hollywood workers… hmm… I know, teach em to write code!

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Eugenia wrote on January 6th, 2012 at 6:28 PM PST:

These companies are not just about coding, they’re about providing modern solutions — and entertainment is part of the whole package they “sell”. Google or Apple themselves don’t have to shoot anything, local crews abroad would. Google already does it for Youtube in a smaller scale. The point is to be able to sell ads and devices.

Brent wrote on January 7th, 2012 at 3:44 PM PST:

I must be totally missing the point you’re trying to make. Providing a “solution” implies there’s a “problem”.

I just happen to be in the middle of a campaign to “see 10 movies in 10 days”. So in six days I’ve seen “The Artist” (really really amazingly great), “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (pretty darn good), “Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead” (much more entertaining than I’d expected”, the new “Muppets” movie (extremely entertaining), and “The Birdman of Alcatraz” (my brother recommended it and this was better than most of his recommendations), and “The Descendants” (I enjoyed it, my companions did not).

Some of these movies I saw at the local movie theater and paid between $6.50 and $11.00 (matinee versus evening). One I rented on iTunes for $2.99. One was a Netflix DVD rental for which I paid less than $1.

AFAIK, neither my local theater, Apple, nor Netflix are going bankrupt or breaking any laws, and so they must have all figured out ways to secure deals for these movies that made financial sense.

I don’t know if these movies were made in Hollywood. Most of them probably were. It would be funny if “Muppets” or “The Artist” weren’t made in Hollywood because they both portray events that happen primarily *in* Hollywood.

P.S. Did I mention that “The Artist” is really really amazingly great? Everyone should see it (in whatever manner makes financial sense to you).

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Eugenia wrote on January 7th, 2012 at 6:49 PM PST:

>Providing a “solution” implies there’s a “problem”.

Yes, there is a problem. Sorry, this blog post required more context. The context that’s missing (I had blogged about it before, that’s why I omitted it here) is revolutionizing the TV, and making it a smart, modern TV. Revolutionized the same way the phone and laptops (aka tablets) were in the last few years. A complete change on how we acquire content, how that UI looks like, how web services can create “channels” using a unified UI/API etc etc. It has been a pet dream of mine in the last 2-3 years. It’s for these kinds of devices — that obviously both Google and Apple are *trying* to do, as Steve Jobs himself said so 2 years ago — that Hollywood resists the whole idea for, and doesn’t license its content under reasonable fees. As long as these devices are kind of external boxes (as current GoogleTV/AppleTV/Roku are), and they’re kind of dumb, Hollywood doesn’t have much trouble with. But when the TV becomes the intelligent center of the home, then Hollywood loses its grip, and avoids sharing its content in order to slow down progress. That’s the problem I tried to solve here.

Brent wrote on January 8th, 2012 at 7:59 AM PST:

Now I understand and I’m totally with you. You’re looking for the attribution contribution distribution solution (ACDS). It’s very similar to one of the problems we were trying to solve in the audio space with Radioweave (which was shut down at the end of 2011 ).

I imagine the solution to the problem you’re describing being something like this: A standards body defines a format for metadata that is very closely associated (i.e. either embedded in the video files themselves, or a URL is embedded that points to its metadata). Within that metadata is a bunch of fields for how the creator of that video expects to be paid. For example, $A to purchase for private ownership between dates B and C, $D to purchase after date C. $E to rent for F hours. etc… This would be kind of like advanced RSS information combined with CC information, but geared towards who gets paid and how much.

Once video content is released with that standard (instead of the current “standard” of backroom deals that requires a high entrance fee and result in different deals for each distributor), then businesses who want to solve the distribution problems now have a formula they can work with and can compete with each other over who can best deliver content under the now-standardized rules of the game. Whoever can make the best playback experience, and keep the prices competitive (X% above the metadata versus Y%) can keep their businesses going. Those who can’t make it work, won’t. With this new frictionless, transparent standard any business is free to innovate on what business model will work, and any consumer is free to choose how they get the content, or not to get it at all (for instance, if the creator sets the cost to high, or the distributor sets the margins too high, or the streaming/download experience sucks, the consumer won’t consume and everybody loses).

As an aside, it always amazes me why people are super eager to consume content on the day it’s releases. Why, for example, are theaters full on opening weekend for a very-hyped movie? The way I see it, if the movie is good on opening weekend it will be good a week later, or two weeks later, or two years later. And if the movie sucks then by a week later you’ll have heard that it sucks and won’t bother. The formulaic pricing model I described takes these phenomena into account: creators are free to price high on early release, for the suckers that care about that kind of nonsense.

In summary, if the creators release a standardized table of metadata describing what they want to get paid, then the distributors can plug that data into formulas and compete over how to distribute (and let the best execution win), and the consumers will lean back and pay for it all.

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Eugenia wrote on January 8th, 2012 at 12:37 PM PST:

That is a good model, but some of these movies or shows are so expensive that Studios buy the copyright from the creators in order to finance them. And then the Studios charge as much as they want to license them… It’s why I believe that more guerrilla-style, cheaper filmmaking needs to happen, in order to get freed from the current model. Also, the fact that there are only 6 media companies left in the US, controlling 90% of all the media published, is not a healthy thing.

If we take music as an example, 10-15 years ago you couldn’t record at home at any acceptable quality without spending lots of money. Today, all you need is $300 and a PC. There’s no reason for a music label anymore, owning your copyright in the process just so you can use their studio. It’s the indie scene that killed the big labels, not piracy. This is what I’m hoping for filmmaking too, as gear is now dirt cheap.

BTW, this was today in the news.

Sorry to hear about RadioWeave btw! 🙁

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Eugenia wrote on January 11th, 2012 at 11:41 AM PST:

And another piece of news, showing the problem of “impossible licensing”.

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