not a unified front

I have an opinion on the whole matter of the direction that the business models of the companies that make up the RIAA and MPAA, as well as the television networks — while they may present one opinion, it’s not necessarily shared among all its members.  The proof is in the fact that some are embracing technologies and new methods, while others are holding back.   Things aren’t as bleak as they seem.

Take DVDs for example.  Looking back at the history of the format, each studio approached the new business model differently.  Warner Brothers and MGM burst onto the scene immediately, pushing the format hard, and releasing all kinds of movies to encourage people to buy them.  Warner and it’s affiliates were the first to release special editions as well.  Go back and look at some of the first DVDs under the New Line Platinum Series, in fact, and you’ll see that even by today’s standards, the list of features is still impressive.  And these were released something like ten years ago.  Universal Studios was another one of the first to release their movies, but their production was pretty crappy.  All the other major studios pretty much held out for years, and you have to wonder why.  Doesn’t anyone remember wondering if Disney would ever release any of their animated titles on DVD?  Disney was, in fact, the worst holdout of them all, and their first DVDs were even worse — often the only list of features was that the movie was in widescreen.  They still have a lot of DVDs out there that are only released in pan & scan.  Fox was another hold out as well.  So while one studio (Warner) saw where things were going, they embraced it, profited from it, and pushed the envelope quite a bit, while those that dragged their feet would only dip their toes in the water a few times before committing full time, and even then giving us scraps of morsels.  In the end it only made things cost more for them, as they would have to re-release a lot of their films so they would get the treatment they deserved.

You can watch a similar approach going on right now with the television networks and HDTV.  Some are doing a great job, and some are resisting it pretty bad.  NBC, in my opinion, is doing the best job right now.  Pretty much every broadcast I watch on that channel is in HDTV.  Heck, even the local news is in HD, and widescreen format as well.  It’s pretty nice.  Fox, on the other end of the spectrum, is doing the worst job ever.  They are only broadcasting at 720p, and I hardly ever see anything in widescreen.  When it is still full frame, my local station is displaying the picture with ugly gray bars on the sides, instead of leaving them black which would be much easier to ignore.  They obviously are either incapable or uncaring of providing a good picture.  ABC is also the only other local network still coming through in only 720p, and the main features are still in fullscreen format.  ABC is owned by Disney, which explains that whole scenario perfectly.  PBS and CBS come through both in 1080i, and look gorgeous.  After watching a show on there, you’re too spoiled to sit through anything else.

Now the question to ask is, why are some people not doing better?  It’s pretty obvious that just like DVDs, the HDTV format is the future, and it’s going to stay.  I think that things will resolve themselves, eventually.  Time is definetely on our side.  Older executives who have been in the business for decades and are still short-sighted and stuck in the old way of doing things will eventually retire, move on or die.  As a younger generation that has grown up with computers, portable music and video devices will see things completely differently, and surely be less resistant to change and new ideas.  Also, they will be frustrated with the old models, and introduce new ones.  Don’t look at the RIAA and MPAA for the opinions and predictions of where things are going, instead look at the ones who are actually making the money and putting the products on the shelves.  Based on the quality and options that they are coming out with, individually as companies, is what we can expect more of.  I think things will only get better.

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