Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

media and society

-- media and society -- warner brothers does bit torrent

My, my. How things do change.

BBC NEWS | Business | Warner to start movie downloads

Warner Brothers is to start selling film downloads via the internet using the same technology once blamed for helping people swap illegal copies. The Hollywood studio has reached a deal with the web company Bit Torrent, which uses peer-to-peer technology to allow the quick distribution of large files.

Warner says users will be able to buy downloads of films and TV shows on the same day they become available on DVD. Pricing for a feature film will be about the same as the DVD release. The cost of a television show could be as low as a dollar.

Warner added that whether a TV show or feature film, it will only play on the initial computer used to make the download. The downloads will not therefore work on other PCs or standard DVD players...

It's going to be interesting to see how this all works. In a way, it seems like they're kind of missing part of the point -- yes, a lot of people will pay to get assured quality downloads rather than inconsistent quality or possible viruses and all that ... but perhaps these would not be the people already using BitTorrent to download illegally. Depending on content, there would also be a certain amount of resentment toward paying as much for a movie alone as you would for a movie plus all the normal DVD extras. One place where it might make a difference, however, is with high definition. There are many more computers and monitors out there than can handle HD output than there are HD-DVD drives; in fact, the first HD-DVD drives have just started shipping, in terribly small numbers and with fairly high initial price points. If you have the hard drive storage space and are willing to watch on your computer, however, this model might work fairly well.

The television show option, however, seems aimed squarely at Apple and iTunes, as well as at other downloaders. After all, if they can pull the same number of legal downloaders on BitTorrent as they can with iTunes, why bother with iTunes? Why pay the fees to Apple that they likely need to pay?

The next year or two might be relentlessly interesting.

Posted by iain at 01:06 PM in category media and society



The "Pricing for a feature film will be about the same as the DVD release" bit is absurd and frankly insulting, though. They'll be charging the usual distribution costs for the physical product, and enlisting their customers to do (and bear the costs of) the actual distribution of the files.

It's probably just the usual mixture of greed and cluelessness, but this almost looks like a deliberate attempt to torpedo the plan from the start. Which is frustrating, because the whole BT+DRM thing is not an inherently bad one, if executed in something resembling a reasonable fashion.

(See also C.A. Bridges' column " href="">Pay
more, get less? That's entertainment," written last month about a less egregious manifestation of this.)

Posted by Shmuel Ross at May 15, 2006 03:09 PM

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