There is absolutely no doubt that the way we watch movies is changing, and changing fast. The film business has managed to avoid the wholesale slaughter of the music industry because of the higher bandwidth needed to convey a movie and the importance (to some of us, anyway) of picture and sound quality. Still, it’s only a matter of time before movies become easily available online, and distinctions between computers and TV sets as entertainment delivery systems is breaking down rapidly.
Hulu has become huge overnight by breaking down the barrier for TV shows and a limited but interesting selection of films despite sometimes erratic technical performance issues (at least on my iMac). Disney/ABC, Universal/NBC and, of course, the brain eating aliens are involved, though the enterprise was started by a force far more sinister and implacable: Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp.
Mashable’s Ben Parr today writes about Epix, which he describes as a joint venture of Paramount, Lionsgate, and MGM. Parr was allowed an early look at the site and, as a film fanboy, it sounds pretty great. If I understand it correctly, you would get the service as part of your cable TV or satellite package and would then be able to choose from a Hulu-like library to view either on television or via computer. If you’re into this stuff, you really should read for yourself. For me, one interesting aspect is that it’s unclear how deep that library would be, both because of marketing issues and because of the various confusing deals that have been struck over the years for MGM’s huge back catalog. (If you’re a masochist or just dig this stuff, here’s a Wikipedia taste.)
It all sounds great to me, except, just as there may be with Hulu, much as I enjoy the service it provides, it strikes me that there could be some anti-trust issues here. Or not. I’m only a lawyer in my mother’s fantasies. Cord Bloomquist, however, has a good rundown of the situation vis a vis Hulu from a libertarian perspective, but I’m no libertarian when it comes to megabusiness. I’m really more of a latte-sipping Hollywood (well, Anaheim) librul who thinks that media consolidation is perhaps the single most serious issue underlying all the other issues we deal with, so I’m a bit suspicious of all the studios getting into bed together for these kind of things.
Short version: Bob the liberal is wary, but Bob the movie geek is intrigued. And, let’s face it, one way or another, this the direction we’re going in. I’d just like to see more flowers blooming.