Thursday, October 6, 2011

Finding Crocodile Dundee

Once a week or so, it's family movie night in our house.  It's a great time for my wife and I to share with our three kids (ages 8-12) some of our favorite PG-rated movies.  Already spoiled by the on demand availability of almost every piece of content, we don't pick a movie until right before show time,  tossing around titles until we reach a consensus, assuming it will be available.   Last week we decided on the critically panned box office hit, Crocodile Dundee.

Surprisingly, the movie wasn't available on any of TW Cable's VOD movie channels or on Netflix, which we stream through our Wii game console.  But it was available on Amazon's streaming video service for $1.99, which we accessed through a rarely-used Google TV Logitech box we purchased last year. (Not sure what role over-the-top boxes from Google, Roku, Boxee and others will play in the future when every new TV comes with an embedded Internet connection and comprehensive programming platform, and Microsoft aggressively turns their 30 million household strong Xbox platform into a full-on interactive TV offering. )

And why Amazon is not available on the Wii is just another mystery in the highly confusing world of entertainment distribution.

So yes,  you can watch anything you want anytime you want, it just takes some work. We used three different devices and services before we found what we were looking for.

Once the movie started, our smart phones and iPads were were pulled into action as we searched for answers to questions like: who is Linda Koslowski (Paul Hogan's co-star), what is Paul Hogan doing these days, is that bar he stumbles into on Avenue B and 6th still there, how badly did The NY Times movie reviewer shred this movie.  One of us shared this classic scene found on YouTube with our friends on Facebook as we watched it.

All in all, a very different family movie night from the house I grew up in 40 years ago.

While it seems content owners are in a great position to capitalize on the explosion of distribution options, managing the logistics and economics of that distribution, along with identifying effective promotional tools for pre, live and post viewing, will be a significant challenge.

For example, most content (not just the big budget TV shows) should have a customize companion mobile app that engages viewers with relevant information, triggers social networking, promotes additional viewing options and, where appropriate, incorporates sponsors.  Tool kits that enable content owners to create these cost efficiently will come to the market shortly, perhaps offered by single source vendors that offer content and rights management, distribution, and promotional services.

And finally, a big lingering question: Will it ultimately be a zero-sum-gain for content owners as all these choices end up diluting the market, making it difficult for anyone to make any money from anything other than marquee live events.