Whether in victory or in defeat, opponents of big media often come to the same conclusion: the inexorable march of technological innovation will severely erode the power of giant media companies. “In the end,” Wired News (wired.com) said in an editorial, “the business model in the entertainment industry is going to change, and these companies can either find a way to insert themselves into the new order, or risk finding themselves frozen out forever.”
But media companies seem less interested in inserting themselves into someone else’s new order than they are in creating and controlling their own. Most media executives by now realize that their methods will have to change. Their maneuvers – suing file-sharing networks or inserting “broadcast flags,” which restrict copying and otherwise limit what media consumers can do with video content – aren’t about trying to protect hoary business models; they’re about keeping the wolves at bay.
“The Killer Shrews,” the masterwork of Ray Kellogg, is one of hundreds of cheap old films now available as ridiculously cheap new DVD’s. Because of lapsed or improperly registered copyrights, even some very watchable movies – among them, Howard Hawks’s “His Girl Friday,” Marlon Brando’s “One-Eyed Jacks” and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dementia 13” – are now in the public domain and can be sold by anyone.
While overall DVD sales are robust – last year retailers sold $15.5 billion in discs – the low-end market is positively booming. Recently, 19 of the 50 top sellers on the Nielsen VideoScan national sales charts were budget DVD’s. “The prices are irresistible,” said Gary Delfiner, whose Global Multimedia Corporation offers 60 film, cartoon and television titles with prices ranging from 99 cents to $1.99.