Some recent articles combined with the tragic standing of the FireFly series had me thinking on money and the media (movies, mainly) lately. When you consider the source of most studio money no longer comes from the theatre box office, it becomes clear that the numbers reported and overhyped every Sunday evening/Monday about the #1 movie for the weekend is a load of hogwash. In all of 2004, theatre revenue totalled $7.4 billion. While not small change, that represented less than 17% of the revenue, with DVD sales along representing over $20 billion, nearly three times the theatre revenue. Theatre revenue may build buzz, but if we really wanted to find the #1 movie someone should give us the breakdown of DVD sales each week.
Which, as it turns out, is extremely difficult to find. After the release of Serenity on DVD, I did some searching to try to assess how the sales had progressed. Since DVD sales aren’t widely reported, I never did find the numbers for the disc. I was disappointed, to say the least, as any future movie opportunities are likely to rely not so much on the $40 million worldwide box office as the actual DVD sales result. If DVD sales were significant, expect another movie.
The real reason I was prompted to write this item was in response to this paragraph in a Slate article, from which I quote the following paragraph:
In October 2005, Google offered to provide a Wi-Fi service that would enable anyone in San Francisco to connect without charge to the Internet. Google would make its profit not from an access charge, but from the ad revenue an entire broadband-wired city would provide. If the experiment proves successful—and Google’s Wi-Fi platform proves stable—nothing will stop the company from rapidly extending this concept to other cities. Reportedly, Google has already lined up unused fiber-optic cable that spans the country. Such a free Wi-Fi network would mean that the Hollywood studios would no longer need to rely on cable operators—or even telephone companies—to have a two-way pipeline into homes. They could directly rent any movie to consumers and bill their credit card (like everything else is billed on the Internet) without paying a cut to cable operators or local televisions stations.
This may be the best experiment to date on my idea of a separation of the underlying network from the services being provided. That said network is both pervasive and free is more than I would have required.
Finally, for those series that can’t quite hack it on prime time but acquire dedicated, loyal followings. Why haven’t any of the studios given a thought to the iTunes TV model? Releasing episodes to a loyal fan base on the order of $2 – $5 each via iTunes may make the micro market possible. If an episode takes $1 million to procude, and $1 million individuals download it at $2 each, you’ve made $1 million. Shows like “Freaks and Geeks”, “FireFly” or “Arrested Development”, may have a home under this kind of model. If only there were some groups courageous enough (with deep enough pockets) to try this out.