The story seems familiar to online video users: fans create a parody video using pirated studio content and post it on YouTube, and the studio’s lawyers quickly have it removed for violating copyright law. But this time the studio’s marketing team relented —and even paid the fans to repost their video.
Last August, a New York-based “comic-rock” group named Guyz Nite created an online video for their song “Die Hard,” a rather worshipful three-minute guide to 20th Century Fox’s action-movie franchise starring Bruce Willis. (The song’s refrain says, “We’re gonna die, die, die as hard as we can!”) The video used clips from the first three “Die Hard” movies, and within days Fox’s legal department requested that the video be removed from YouTube.
But in February, with a fourth “Die Hard” movie on the horizon, Fox’s marketing department contacted the band and offered to pay it to repost the video, using additional video clips to promote the new film, “Live Free or Die Hard,” which opens on Wednesday. The new version of the video has been viewed almost 90,000 times on YouTube; the reposted old version has been viewed almost 100,000 times.
Or something more complicated? Hollywood Seeks Ways to Fit Its Content Into the Realm of the iPhone
For years, mobile phone carriers like AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint have closely controlled what cellphone users watch, when they watch it, and on what kind of screen they watch it — much the way the networks did with television before new technologies loosened their grip. Many in Hollywood and Silicon Valley hope the iPhone’s multimedia features will make it easier for any mobile-crazed consumer to do the same things they do on the Web: watch their favorite television shows, download maps, send e-mail messages to friends and swap videos.
In what is the beginning of many attempts to make the cellphone more Web friendly, Apple has designed its own application so consumers can receive YouTube videos through a Wi-Fi network. Industry executives predict that as it becomes easier to get information via Wi-Fi networks, more consumers will bypass traditional wireless networks altogether. That prospect, while helpful for phone makers and media concerns, is frightening for service providers if consumers begin to regard them as irrelevant.
And he is not alone. In the last year broadcast networks, cable channels and television content providers have all set up camp in virtual communities, where they hope that viewers who have forsaken television for computer screens might rediscover their programming online. Some outlets, like Showtime and Sundance, are establishing themselves in existing worlds; others, like MTV, are creating their own. Either way, if the wildest dreams of some very excited technology developers come true, virtual reality might finally be the medium that unites the passive experience of watching television with the interactive potential of the Web.
If that happens, the television industry — which has not been particularly speedy in adapting to the Internet revolution — sees an opportunity not only to recover lost ground from online competitors but also to take a lead, and in so doing create an entirely new environment in which to influence and sell to its audience.