How Hollywood Is Hurting Itself

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 30 2012 @ 9:37am

David Pogue is baffled by the crappiness of online movie rentals:

[W]hen you rent the digital version, you often have only 24 hours to finish watching it, which makes no sense. Do these companies really expect us to rent the same movie again tomorrow night if we can't finish it tonight? In the DVD days, a Blockbuster rental was three days. Why should online rentals be any different? When you rent online, you don't get any of the DVD extras—deleted scenes, alternative endings, subtitles—even though you're paying as much as you would have paid to rent a DVD.

Yet perhaps most important, there's the availability problem. New movies aren't available online until months after they are finished in the theaters, thanks to the "windowing" system—a long-established obligation that makes each movie available, say, first to hotels, then to pay-per-view systems, then to HBO and, only after that, to you for online rental.

Because of that, Pogue argues that Hollywood is its own worst enemy when it comes to piracy:

The people want movies. None of Hollywood's baffling legal constructs will stop the demand. The studios are trying to prevent a dam from bursting by putting up a picket fence. And if you don't make your product available legally, guess what? The people will get it illegally. Traffic to illegal download sites has more than sextupled since 2009, and file downloading is expected to grow about 23 percent annually until 2015. Why? Of the 10 most pirated movies of 2011, guess how many of them are available to rent online, as I write this in midsummer 2012? Zero. That's right: Hollywood is actually encouraging the very practice they claim to be fighting (with new laws, for example).