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THE MORNING BUZZ: More Fun With the Hunters and Gatherers

25 Jun, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

I've been interviewing a lot of executives from the personal video recorder (PVR), video-on-demand (VOD) and pay-per-view (PPV) camps lately.

They think they will win the video battle because to them, even DVD is clutter. "People don't collect movies," one executive told me recently. "How many movies do you have that you ever really watch more than once?"

But then there is my friend and rabid DVD collector Thomas K. Arnold (not to mention Ralph Tribbey's friend ROC and his wife Helga), who pile up and count their DVDs like kings in their counting houses.

I've theorized here before that entertainment consumers --- like all of nature -- have two primary behaviors: Hunters and Gatherers. In this case the cable, satellite and broadband consumers are hunters, while VHS/DVD collectors are the gatherers.

The hunters travel light; they don't want anything they can't carry when they move. Or even flinch. Entertainment is for the moment or, in the case of many file traders, the moment before the moment: file traders often take their greatest pleasure from apprehending the quarry. The rest of the hunters enjoy feasting on it, then spitting out the bones and moving on.

Gatherers, on the other hand, take pleasure in having the item. They do collect DVD. They like not only the main event, but the bibliographical content, featurettes, commentaries. All that archival stuff. They are gatherers and so they gather. Added gatherer bonuses for DVD are its compactness and positively anal retentive symmetry that makes them all look the same in a row on a shelf. (Oh yeah, except for Warner titles. Ugly package, bottom shelf. We can roll the ottoman out of the way to access those.)

I'm torn. I'm more of a gatherer, but you've read about my adventures selling stuff on eBay (an old doll and two posters this week) because I have too much crap, so I have a love-hate relationship with DVD. I dig it, but I hate digging out of it.

Enter the PVR -- a hard drive recording mechanism with all the video player features. Mucho storage, little space, suddenly Internet-wired. Microsoft is accelerating its push with computers that are entertainment hubs. Already in the house, already Internet-wired. And now the pipers are giving me the extras, "making of" featurettes, outtakes and other cool stuff previously only available on DVD, via my set-top box.

The appeal is obvious for a gatherer in a small space. It's altogether predictable that the tightest and most expensive housing markets -- Southern California, the Bay Area, Manhattan, Seattle and others, not to mention dormitories all over America -- will be the first places to embrace entertainment that never needs shelves.

This week, Cinemanow.com and anime supplier Pioneer Home Entertainment started offering Armitage Dual-Matrix. To launch they offered it for free June 25, not coincidentally the DVD street date. I'd call that a shot across your bow, my friends. It also proves those companies are no fools. They know their audience is early adopters -- hunters by nature -- who will revel in the instant gratification.

Now a company called nReach is offering kiosks to download stuff literally into your Palm, with downloads to personal data assistant (PDA) memory cards. There's one for the gatherers! Opportunity licks you can take with you. And I understand the technology is much less susceptible to piracy than DVD, which will get studio attention. Some people are blowing this off, but "a major video chain" is in discussions to test the kiosks in stores. (You figure it out: who tests everything anyone else does, at least for six months?)

Some of us have a little of each, the hunter and the gatherer, in us. We'll still collect DVD, but we'll start exploring other ways to get our entertainment and to consume it, which will fuel the battle over copy protection.

I believe that most people want to consume their entertainment legally, but we also want flexibility in how we consume it. What's convenient in one situation is not in another.

That is the reason copy protection will be such a contentious battle. It's also the reason many of the new entertainment formats and suppliers will catch on and endure.

Suddenly I'm feeling the urge to prowl…

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