Home Movie Distribution, Status Quo & Future
starring Marilyn Monroe,
was the first "edited for
This event was a milestone
in the history of movie
and video distribution.
No longer did we have to
go to a theater to see a movie.
In the 1980s, movie rentals, made possible with the widespread availability of videocassette recorders, became popular. Eventually, Blockbuster Video emerged as the movie rental king. Now, however, Blockbuster, hurt by the emergence of the home delivered rental and the pay-per-view movie, is more than a billion dollars in debt.
NetFlix pioneered the home delivered movie rental,
an offshoot of the movie rental business, in 1999. NetFlix now offers more
than 100,000 TV show and movie titles from their library. Wal-Mart,
Pay-per-view (PPV) service from a cable or satellite service provider is a form of movie download, only the signal does not travel over the Internet. The primary limitation for these services is the number of movies available. But PPV in this format is very popular. According to Kristie Fortner (Rentrak VP), 2007 orders of free on demand movies were up 66 percent, orders of subscription programs like Showtime or HBO were up 23 percent, and PPV movie rentals were up more than 40 percent.
Internet downloaded movies appear to be the dominant delivery technique of the future. Vudu, TiVo, Apple's iTunes, NetFlix, and Amazon.com currently offer video content via a broadband Internet connection. However, the number of movies in the download libraries is a bit less than the DVD libraries, with about 10,000 movies now available for download on NetFlix.
Most of the services are either offering movies in HDTV format, or planning to do so soon. Video quality is difficult to compare between the different services. The video compression algorithm, called a Codec, plays a significant role. The best objective method to compare signal quality is bit-rate. A comparison of bit-rate for some of the current video alternatives:
Service Bit-Rate (Mbps)
Vudu HDX 9-20
Vudu HD 4
Cable TV 10-15
Prices are coming down for the equipment needed for these services. Vudu slashed the price of their set-top box to $99 for the 2008 Christmas season (from about $300), but $50 of movie credits needed to be purchased with the hardware.
Kudos to Vudu for their on-line service. The interface has been compared to IMDB.com (a movie-buff website). You see an actor, select the resume, and you can see what other movies they've been in, and easily find your selection. It's makes the process absolutely pleasant.
A significant downside of video downloads in the unavailability of recent releases. Movies are generally unavailable for at least a month after release, in order to protect the brick and mortar movie theater market. This is unlikely to change, at least in the near-term.
to Joshua Danovitz (TiVo),
the issue of download limits differs in each country. In the
It is likely that the movie distribution business will follow the path blazed by the audio distribution business. The only reason for the time lag is that video files are much larger, and the Internet capability was not yet ready.