Movie studios leave money on the table

By Steve Outing

In some ways I feel like the future I’ve been waiting for is here — sort of. I’m talking about Amazon Unbox and TiVo, with which I can now rent movies without driving to the video store and feeling guilty about further contributing to climate change. Hallelujah!

We had a pretty bad snowstorm here in Boulder today, and one of my daughters was home sick, so I loved being able to rent her a movie without braving the awful roads.

Alas, Amazon Unbox is far from perfect, because it’s crippled by the movie studios. While I was able to rent Because of Winn Dixie for $2.99 from the comfort of the living room, many other movies are only available for “purchase.” Example: The Bourne Ultimatum is only available to buy for $14.99; you can’t “rent” it.

The difference between “rent” and “purchase” is that with “rent,” the movie gets deleted from the TiVo hard drive 24 hours after you’ve hit the play button. With “purchase,” you can keep it on the TiVo as long as you like.

How dumb is that?! I’d watch Bourne for $3 or $4, but I’m not going to buy it. So Amazon and the movie companies lose out on huge amounts of revenue. If you poke around Unbox, you’ll find a LOT of movies that are only for purchase. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Don’t blame Amazon, of course. It’s just abiding by what the movie companies demand in terms of licensing. And while I’m no expert on the movie industry, I can bet that it’s more complicated than just making the decision to allow TiVo rentals for everything in the catalog.

It just goes to show that we’re in a transition period, where the consumer experience is still rather stupid when it comes to movies on demand. I’m sure it’ll get there, and my daughter and I can rent whatever we damn well want to — without spewing any carbon into the air. Won’t that be nice!

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!