Movie downloads still on the burner

Movie audience

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Doug Krizner: The digital revolution has changed the ways we listen to music and watch movies. The business has been shaken by these changes, particularly the music business, but will the same thing happen in film and television? Let's bring in Mike Speier, he's executive editor at Variety here in LA. Mike, first, beyond the technical requirements, why has the music business been so much more successful than its video counterpart in downloading?

Mike Speier: I think that the reason the music business is able to maintain a level of success is you can select the tracks you want and it's cheaper than buying the entire product. For many years, when we were kids, you had to buy the entire album if you wanted one or two songs. Now you just have to buy one or two songs at 99 cents a pop and you're in.

Krizner: Is Hollywood really betting big on the viability of video downloading?

Speier: Yes and no. They're certainly betting big because they're making deals with a lot of download services and a lot of download services exist and there are a lot of subscribers and so they hope that that is the future. No in the sense that this has been a record-setting summer box office and any studio executive would argue that nothing beats going to the movies.

Krizner: So what do we make of NBC Universal challenging Apple on the price that it thinks it can get for a download?

Speier: Well what you're seeing now is kind of a clarification of the system, which is everyone thought for a long time Apple was the only player and they got all the people involved and they got all the deals. And now people are saying 'wait a minute, we don't want to be held hostage, we think we can do a different thing.'

Krizner: Now there were rumblings in the media this week about Sony making a move into video downloading. It's got an advantage, it has a studio, it knows what some of the issues are because it's involved in the business. Does that give them a significant leg up do you think?

Speier: What gives them a leg up is they have a library of titles. What they don't have of course is the infrastructure to set up a download service. That takes time and right now there are at least six companies doing that from Wal-Mart to Amazon to Movielink to CinemaNow that already have a head start on that.

Krizner: But for the moment none of this is challenging the conventional way that we see film.

Speier: Absolutely. And I think that's what's confusing everybody. Five years ago we said 'hey we can watch movies on our laptop' or 'hey we can download films, isn't that cool?' Well yeah you can now and there's plenty of services out there but the numbers just aren't there. People are confused about what studios have deals where. Some are subscription, some are by movie, some are by rental . . you know what? It's just easier to go rent a DVD. The movies business needs one company to come along and revolutionize this and to change it and to make something worthwhile.

Krizner: Mike Speier is executive editor of Variety here in LA. Mike always a pleasure, thanks so much.

Speier: A pleasure to be here.

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