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Tech and Content Can Be at Odds

29 Jan, 2007 By: Stephanie Prange

When Steve Jobs had Apple create the iPod, he didn't do it to sell music. Selling music was a means to an end: selling more iPods. At 99 cents a tune, music executives may feel they aren't getting the same bang for their product as Jobs, who sells iPods at hundreds of dollars apiece. Actually, from Jobs' point of view, the cheaper the songs, the more likely folks will buy more of his iPods. Meanwhile, the music labels' former cash cow, the CD, is fading as consumers prefer the more-convenient (and cheaper, for the most part) downloads.

That kind of pricing scenario is just what studios are trying to avoid with movies and other copyrighted video content, but they've got a little more time and the example of the music business to work with.

The hardware makers want easy, cheap access to video content for their customers so they can sell more hardware and chips to play or acquire it on. That's why they are such cheerleaders for user-generated content. People share it for free. No money goes to the creative community. Hardware suppliers and the high-tech community would love it if folks watched each others' home movies all day on the Internet, rather than going to see the latest blockbuster at the theater or buying it on DVD.

On the other hand, the studios and the creative community rightfully want to preserve the value of content. I would argue that the consumer would like to preserve high-quality content as well. Reality shows aside, consumers still like to watch “The Sopranos” and blockbuster films such as Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest. While some day the next Steven Spielberg may be discovered on YouTube, I bet he won't long want to offer his work for free. Still, not all content is alike, and some is certainly worth less than the price of a movie ticket.

When you hear the tech community cry foul because the studios are too greedy, it's really their own greed talking. And when you hear the studios' bemoan illegal downloads and the ease with which hackers break copy protection, it's really about their bottom line. Neither is truly on the side of the consumer. Both sides are acting in their own self-interest. Each just wants the consumer to cough up as much money for their product as possible.

Honestly, I think the consumer has caught on to the grab for their wallet. They are looking for the cheapest, easiest way to get the best-quality entertainment, and, until the hardware and software folks can come up with something truly better than the value of the good old DVD, they'll be watching their wallet.

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