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Fun With Words

6 Apr, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

I like to read the dictionary. I often skim through it and read the definition words that jump out at me, even ones I already know.

I especially like to do this when I'm trying to write a column and need an idea boost.

It seems like every word I landed on as I perused Webster's this time could apply to the state of the video market right now.

I pulled out a couple of my favorites:

ob.so.lete adj. no longer used: antiquated.

This definition made me think of VHS. Is it really obsolete? I know we in the industry pretty much feel that way. But, is it “no longer used?” I would argue that there are still quite a few people using VHS, if only for taping TV and time-shifting. I don't think PVRs and DVRs or even DVD recorders are quite ubiquitous (that's another fun one, meaning “present everywhere simultaneously”) enough yet for that to have totally replaced VHS as at least a blank recordable choice.

Now, even with the announcements as of late regarding legal digital movie downloading, I think it will still be a while until the term “obsolete” can really be applied to DVD. Sure, sales are slowing, but the format is far from “antiquated” or “no longer used.” Even the most avid digital downloader is likely going to make a collectible-package choice every now and then.

I think, even without high-definition discs, it will be a long time before DVD goes the way of the 8-Track, which is, of course a great example of “obsolete.”

ob.sta.cle n. a thing that obstructs progress.

I love the alphabetic symmetry that puts these two words right next to each other in the dictionary. As many others have and will continue to point out, there are still plenty of obstacles to be faced for digital delivery of movies. Just about everyone has a DVD player, but that's not the case with broadband access, home media servers, IP-connected TVs, virtual storage space or any of the myriad of things that will make this the delivery method of choice for most people.

Moviebeam seems like an optimum solution, but it requires an additional nearly $200 expenditure. The average American consumer is already cash-strapped, but they've already bought and paid for those DVD players. There is no obstacle to DVD viewing. Any movie they want is going to be out there, and at a pretty attractive price.

And, while the studios seem to be jumping on board with legal downloading, they themselves are likely to create plenty of obstacles for the consumer with the potential for confusing or constraining DRM, unrealistic pricing schemes and complicated transactionality.

syn.er.gism n. combined interaction of elements, factors, etc., that is greater than the sum of their effects individually.

What if DVD (or whatever packaged media option) and digital downloads worked synergistically together? Most of the avid DVD buyers I know rush out to purchase a movie they saw in theaters and loved. What if, let's say a person missed Brokeback Mountain in theaters but ordered it to watch via a digital download service? What if the supplier wasn't offering a burn-to-disc option for this movie? What if they offered a tag instead that says: “Did you like this movie? Would you like to own it or give it as a gift?” Then there could be a tag or a link to a website with a code to print out a coupon good for a few dollars off the retail DVD.

Erik Gruenwedel pointed out in his column this week that studios have a “herd mentality” with regard to progress like offering digital downloads.

I think consumers have a “herd mentality” as well, and with some prodding, could be led to blend both packaged media and digital choices in their movie-watching experiences.

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