Going Rental

Apparently the movie studios are placing further restrictions on rentals in order to promote the purchase of shiny disc. Marco Arment says this won’t work because:

If I’m adding a movie to my Netflix queue, I’ve already decided not to buy the DVD. I’m adding it because it looks mildly interesting and I’d like to watch it sometime.

I take the opposite approach. I am unlikely to buy a movie unless I have previously rented it. Why would I buy it if I don’t know whether or not I like it?

I don’t mention this to suggest that Marco is wrong. Quite the opposite. What I’m saying is that I can’t think of any use cases where this strategy would work. Whether you’re not buying it because you don’t want to buy it or not buying it because you don’t know whether you’ll like it, the common thread is that no purchase is involved. The studio would make more money in both these anecdotes if they allowed rentals.

But it’s not really about making money, as bizarre as that might seem. It’s about control.

Movie studios look to the music industry and are trying to learn from their mistakes. Unfortunately they’re taking completely the wrong lessons. Rather than seeing customers buying music instead of taking free copies from P2P networks, they see Apple being in control and able to dictate “unfavourable” terms to them.

To an outsider, “unfavourable” is an odd word as it mainly seems to involve more people paying for more content.

In this battle between the studios, the content providers (Amazon, Apple and NetFlix) and consumers there are no winners. Consumers either miss out on seeing films they want to see or end up making illegal downloads. Amazon, Apple and NetFlix all have to disappoint their customers with seemingly arbitrary additions and removals from their catalogue. And the studios continue to leave money on the table.

Personally I see that as the most “unfavourable” outcome, but what do I know?