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DVD Insider: The Million Dollar Baby

by The DVD Insider July 09, 2006

It's the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you...

A month ago the wife and I attended a semi-private premier of the movie -- A Bug and a Bag of Weed. It was posted on a web site of some folks in Canada who had worked for six months to script, shoot, edit and post produce are their film. Then they announced the premier to friends, interested parties and thousands of folks on the web. The entertainment? Pretty darned good. So good that we gave them a credit card donation of $10. For $5 more we downloaded the film and burned it to DVD. Yes it had copy protection - a line that asked that you not share our copy because the group had invested so much time, effort and money that they would like to see as much financial rewards as possible for their creative work.

A few weeks ago we visited artistserver.com and searched our favorite genres - jazz, blues, guitar. Blew most of the evening listening to a ton of music... free. Then we downloaded a bunch of songs we liked and stored them on our hard drive. Again we made a modest credit card donation for some really great and really unique music. Now we're putting the songs on CDs to play in our cars and our CD players at home and in the office. We'll also copy them over to our MP3 player so the wife can listen while exercising.

The quality of the audio and video content? Good. Very good. More importantly, it's unique... and it's ours!

If these creative people sell a half million copies of their work around the globe that will be outstanding! They will be part of a growing cottage industry that will enrich the visual and aural enjoyment of millions. They are like kids who tough it out with bare knuckles and gloves in bars, clubs, gyms around the globe. Taking and giving the best and the worst because... they see the dream. The great thing is that they now have their own venues and opportunities courtesy of the Internet and web sites like artistserver, YouTube and a bazillion other sites. Some of the content is cute... some good... some great... some outstanding. You get to preview it, make your choice and buy to own... direct from the source. Like good boxers, creatives are finding out they don't have to beg for a chance from The Man. They participate in the indie music and video festivals like Toronto, Ojai, Tribeca, Berlin, Rio and thousands of others. They post to free and for-pay web sites. They make or break it on their own merits, not at the whim of their punch drunk managers.

While Indies are gaining legs and traction, the MPAA and RIAA plunge ahead with DCMA and PERFORM legislation (Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music), push to plug the analog TV hole and initiate lawsuits against... darned near anyone who gets in the lawyer's crosshairs. They are suing, taking congresspersons to dinner and twisting the arms of the hardware/software industries because... they believe what the industry is saying. In fact they really believe it is almost here. They understand we want our content anywhere, everywhere so we can use it on any device and share the content. They think you're implementing it ... NOW! The view is they want you to pay for what you buy each and every time rather than share it across all those great devices.

The DLNA dream is beautiful. Think of it - download your TV program to your media center, pipe it around the house, copy it to a DVD to take on a business trip, put it on your MP3 player to enjoy on the numbing train ride to the office. Grab your favorite music with your home XM system. Stack it up for random play on a huge hard drive. Copy it over to your iPod. What's that you say? Doesn't happen in your home? That's probably because you took the DLNA dream and started to do your own PnP solution. First you had a mind-boggling array of boxes and devices. Then you had content coming from ... everywhere! Think some of the boxes and sources will go away? Fat chance. We want it. And we want it all.

Before you leave your discs behind:

  • Worldwide digital TV households in 2005 - 144.1 mil (Informa)
  • Worldwide digital TV households in 2010 - 369.8 mil (Informa)
  • U.S. VOD households in 2005 - 23.8 mil (eMarketer)
  • U.S. VOD households in 2009 - 47.1 mil (eMarketer)
  • U.S. broadband household in 2005 - 42.3 mil (eMarketer)
  • U.S. broadband households in 2009 - 77.7 mil (eMarketer)
  • U.S. young adults use Internet as primary music appliance - 39.1% (Burst!)
  • U.S. young adults use Internet as primary game device - 31.9% (Burst!)
  • Worldwide broadband households 2005 - 4 mil (iSuppli)
  • Worldwide broadband households 2010 - 65 mil (iSuppli)
  • Worldwide PC sales topped 1 billion in 2005

That is a long way from the billions of bodies occupying our globe.

Still not convinced? HDTV and DTV aren't about watching shows like Days of our Lives or News at 11 or Regis & Kathy or American Idol. A huge number of sets were sold for the Super Bowl. Millions more flew out of stores for the World's Cup.

News, soaps, regular stuff and even movies look horrible in HighDef unless it's adult video or games (so they tell us). HighDef is so good. You can see how cheap the sets are, how bad the makeup job is, all the crows' feet, the puffy eyes.

Don't believe us? Take a close look at this HighDef shot of this Tellywood lawyer:


Maybe not owning because of DRM isn't such a bad thing? But as Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris said, "But step back too far and you ain't fighting at all."

Ever since the VCR ruling, consumers (and indie content developers) have been losing ground. Today none of your rights are guaranteed on the content you buy. In fact the MPAA and RIAA want to expand their protection. In their mind you have one right... experience the entertainment as a unified, integrated presentation. Anything else is simply a shade of mafia...

If Congress says no timeshifting... no backup copies... no moving from one device to another consumers will be encouraged to shift. That shift is to use their Internet and broadband capabilities and find new entertainment from Indies who are anxious to get their music and their movies heard/seen.

The telephone industry was supposed to die. It didn't. It changed but gawd was it a struggle. So has radio. So slowly and painfully is the TV industry. The record industry clings stubbornly to the past. Ditto Hollywood. Since rolling back technology is impossible, they want control over the content and your devices.

IPTV and content web sites are like a breath of fresh air making available an almost endless selection of music and video entertainment. It will be good quality you can download and own if you are 25-30% of the buying public - 30 years and below or someone who lives and works in the PC/CE technology related arena. For the rest of the public, the standard TV fare is good enough. Going to the movie is good enough. Listening to the radio is good enough. Buying or renting a DVD movie is good enough.

If Tellywood becomes so restrictive with their DRM and analog flag positions the techno-savvy (and connected) universe will turn their backs on them. Eventually we'll have online options that will attract and will be remote-easy for Joe/Jane couch potato! We've got great Indie content that is getting better with each passing month. We can buy the CDs. Buy the DVDs. Copy the discs.

But they aren't HighDef you say? So? You can play them on devices you have... today!!! You can play them on the super sexy blue recorder, burner, player when you decide bragging rights are worth the money.

Right up to and through the 2010s. By then you'll probably be tired of the content or you can move it to a blue disc. By then cheap devices and media will be available so you can start a new library. By then the DRM challenges of personal ownership may be a thing of the distant past.

Or... the Indie world will be rich and available to all.

Eddie's advice to Maggie is good for Indies... and consumers, "Instead of running from the pain - like a sane person would do, you step into it."

It's the dream nobody sees but you...