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January 18, 2006

Reshaping Distribution Across Content Classes [8:40 pm]

From Slate: The Broken Windows Theory - Who suffers when the DVD is released before the movie has left theaters?

Throughout the sprawling mediasphere, content windows are getting smashed, broken, and kicked in. Consumers, enabled by technology, are demanding to wolf down their media the way they want it, and when they want it. Established content distributors generally look askance at the trend because it disrupts traditional modes of doing business and raises uncomfortable questions: Will anybody buy hardcovers if the book comes out simultaneously in paperback? Will people go see a movie in the theater if they can just watch it on HDNet? Will people pay to see a play on Broadway if it debuts simultaneously on the boob tube and the Great White Way? [...]

Such broken windows may be bad news for the distributors and packagers of content. Slate’s “Hollywood Economist” Edward J. Epstein has written vividly about how closing the window may cause “Hollywood’s Death Spiral.” Still, the breaking windows are unambiguously great news for consumers. Forget all the carping about insipid Top 40 radio, unfunny sitcoms, and unending cacophonous blockbuster movies. With content windows shattering all over the place, we’re entering a golden age of media consumption where people everywhere no longer have to wait—or pay through the nose—to see, read, and hear interesting stuff right away.

The trend of collapsing windows signifies that the media industry has finally entered the 1980s: It’s finally starting seriously to think about efficiency. Big media is wedded to enormously inefficient methods of production and distribution. [...]

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