Think You Own Your Digital Cartoons? Think Again!

New technology is a wonderful thing (it allows you to read this blog for instance) and so far it has proven a boon to many industries in addition to spawning many more. Unfortunately the entertainment industries are one of the very few (along with newspapers) that are going the way of blacksmiths. In other words, they’re being overtaken by technological progress. The story behind this post came to light last week via Techdirt whereby a consumer by the name of Rebecca went to retrieve a film from her collection on Amazon Video on Demand service and got a rather nasty shock.

The image above is what she came across as she went to view Puss in Boots. Now Rebecca had purchased the film; that is, she coughed up $14.99 for the right to view it whenever she wanted rather than paying the $1.99 or whatever it is for a rental.

Tim Cushing outlines the reason for this in his Techdirt post:

As Rebecca found out, “any time” means “any time the studio is not currently milking every last dollar out of its latest release by shuffling it in and out of rental, PPV and premium cable windows.”

So yes, as a lot of consumers are starting to realise, studios do this nasty thing whereby broadcast rights can only be held by one entity at a time, and in case you’re wondering, broadcast and streaming rights are the same. Take this example; say DreamWorks has a deal with Netflix to stream their movies. Now say they sell the rights to broadcast movies to a cable channel, e.g. Nickelodeon. Well, Nickelodeon will want everyone to watch the film on their channel rather than Netflix, so for length of the deal, they will have exclusive broadcast rights to whatever film it is that they have. So if they have exclusive rights, guess who doesn’t? That’s right, Netflix; who subsequently remove the film from their library.

This is an all too basic example, but it just highlights the many hoops that consumers have to jump through in order to watch something. As a fan of animation, it is already a struggle to see great films and TV shows, what with Nickelodeon dragging their feet when it comes to Netflix and Cartoon Network ignoring it altogether.

We should be looking instead towards the future. YouTube is already making inroads into extracting revenue from their content (and in more substantial ways than crappy advertising). Either way, if we are to continue buying content rather than either renting it, buying physical copies or visiting ye olde Pirate Bay, there has to be better cohesion and simplicity in the governing rules. As Tim puts it:

Streaming is becoming the preferred option for movies and music and Hollywood seems to be willing to fight it every step of the way. It’s sad and it’s ugly. The industry has crippled Hulu and Netflix (while offering nothing comparable of their own) and now seems ready and willing to kick Amazon and its customers around for as long as it can get away with it. It’s one thing to play stupid games with content when customers are playing a flat rate for “all you can watch.” It’s quite another to yank content away from customers who have paid directly for a title at prices that rival a physical DVD purchase. That’s not a “business model.” That’s abusing your customers for fun and profit.

This should be something that’s on everyone’s minds in the industry. Serving consumers should be the number one focus and unfortunately for studios (both big and small) tend to forget this.