Movie windows were back in the spotlight this week as Hollywood executives continue to air out their anxiety over digital distribution's impact. In a pair of articles (here and here), Home Media Magazine covered remarks by Disney CFO Jay Rasulo and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes at the Deutsche Bank conference in Palm Beach, FL. Rasulo put his finger on Hollywood's challenge of how to "re-work release windows to generate incremental revenue, without cannibalizing existing revenue streams and upsetting distribution partners."
However, as Disney knows from its experiment last year of accelerating the DVD release of "Alice in Wonderland," which raised the ire of British theater owners, balancing these objectives is no easy feat. Meanwhile, as "Premium Video-on-Demand," an early window release plan for $30-$40 per movie approaches, theater owners' unhappiness will become even more apparent.
For his part, Bewkes, Netflix's #1 critic, was once again reminding investors that all the great - and expensive - programming coming out of Hollywood cannot be supported on the back of a $10/month online subscription service. Rather, Bewkes continued to emphasize that the existing pay-TV model, and the TV Everywhere approach he heavily favors, is optimal for Hollywood's economics.
When it comes to windows, Bewkes makes no secret of his wish that Netflix and other online aggregators should be at the tail end, when all other better monetization avenues have been exhausted. The challenge to his argument is that consumers behaviors and expectations are rapidly shifting (see above), which in turn scrambles notions of traditional windows' values. As Rasulo said, with no understatement, "It's not crystal clear where all these trends are heading."
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