Memo to Media Execs

There’s an interesting Michael Wolff piece in New York about the declining value of content. (Disclaimer: I used to work for Michael in the early 90s) While I generally agree with the concept that content is becoming more widespread and that there is an increase in the amount of content being produced, I fundamentally disagree with his assumption that people do not pay for content. If that were truly the case, where would box-office revenues go? What about video and DVD rentals?

His pointing out the fact that changes in behavior show that most people will steal music and movie content on the Internet is largely due to the fact that there are no clear alternatives. Attempts to offer a crippled service like the new Napster or Pressplay are not enough (After all, if I pay for a service, why does the stuff I downloaded expire). Give us an all you can eat legal buffet at a price point that does not gouge us and we will come. Or start paying the artists and your case will be stronger when you tell us that we are starving them.

Right now, many people pay for cable TV. Basic price gives you some access but other channels (like HBO) cost extra. However, people can still record shows and movies once they paid. Why can’t the same be true of music? And why do I have to follow the path the media industry is setting to get my content (for example, why do I have to go to a movie theater to see a first run movie? Why can’t I get access to it either on DVD, pay-per-view or online download on the same day? Yes, this would completely change your business model (couldn’t sell as much soda, advertising, and tickets at the movie theater) but it might be what the customer wants.

A possible way to change this would be to keep charging the same price for movie theater (and enhance the movie experience by getting rid of those commercials before the movie), offer the DVD for premium rental only at an initial point (for example, I could get today’s release from the corner store for $25, hence avoiding the ticket line and watching the movie on MY schedule (if I want to see the movie at 7:30pm or 8pm or 7:54pm, I currently have to find a theater that matches my needs). In the same fashion, I could open up a video on demand feed either on my TV and/or computer and watch the movie at my leisure for a 24 hour period.

Just a few random thoughts (and I just came up with those off the top of my head so there might be others out there): Start thinking of how your business will evolve or suffer the same fate as the dinosaurs.

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