The Interview and economics

I typed up this whole reply, and then VentureBeat’s commenting system didn’t work and redirected me back to the homepage instead of actually posting. :(

http://venturebeat.com/2014/12/29/despite-making-18m-dont-expect-the-interview-to-revolutionize-digital-movie-distribution/


 

HI Chris,

I’ve got to disagree. This may not be a single key moment that changes online video distribution for Hollywood, but it is a hugely important one. A widely known movie was distributed online and it generated returns similar to one in theaters, while charging far less per viewer. That changes the conversation. Every online distribution discussion is going to reference this movie.

Of course, we’re all speculating until Sony sits down at their Q1 numbers. Still, speculating is fun, so I’m joining in too :)

In this case, the movie benefited from extraordinary publicity. By the time Christmas rolled around, it was safe to say just about everyone in the U.S. had heard something about the movie given that even President Obama felt compelled to weigh in on the drama surrounding its release. A typical release online would have an incredibly difficult time getting such attention or even much respect given that people tend to view movies that get VOD-first releases as a sign the movie is weak.

The Rogan&Franco&Greenberg style has been around for a while now. They’re a known quantity. People who like them know it, and people who don’t like them know it too. The movie may be unimaginably famous, but the fame may be a red herring. Since they are such a known quantity, the publicity is not likely to have made someone who wouldn’t have been a customer become one. On top of this, if you are a fan of the trio, you already knew this was coming out, so the added publicity from the hack may not have affected the actual returns. My gut says there’s no more than a 15% bump, which still leaves the current returns over the $15m mark.

“…given that people tend to view movies that get VOD-first releases as a sign the movie is weak” — perceptions of VOD-first is a trailing indicator. “The Interview” is a leading indicator. Imagine the discussion: “would I watch a movie on my PS4/Apple TV/Kindle Fire? Yeah I would. I remember my friend telling me how much cheaper it was to watch that Interview movie at home. They sat on their own sofa and got to eat their own food…cheaper and healthier!” — how many cultural trends just got tapped there?

More than that, the actual amount of revenue generated is a meaningless measure. What matters is the underlying terms of the revenue deals that Sony struck with distributors like Google and Apple.

As to the economics of the distribution: you’re right. No one knows what the revenue split was between streaming services and Sony. I’d venture a guess that the services were excited to make this deal happen, and were willing to offer nice terms. That being said, the more important issue is that running a streaming service costs far less than operating a physical movie theater. The streaming services have a structural advantage in the long run when it comes to offering desirable terms.

Again, let’s all wait and see what happens once viewer’s wallets have had their time to vote over the next few months.

Technology, by age

A discussion of payment apps turned into a revelation on a line in the sand on social. The editors at QZ noticed a pattern at the over-and-under-30 age line — over 30 didn’t understand why Venmo would have a public timeline of payments; under 30 liked it.

Pando expanded on the subject a bit, and it got me thinking.

If the “social-digital” line is around 30 years today, in late 2014…

…in 2024 the age line will be around 40…

…in 2034 the age line will be around 50…

…in 2044 the age line will be around 60…

…in 2054 the age line will be around 70…

I imagine that the line will be blurred as time goes on, but these are rough target dates.

What life events happen at different points? At what date is a critical mass of this social-digital line going to arrive at certain things?

I’m not foolish enough to think that this social-digital line is going to move smoothly throughout the ages, but there’s definitely reason to think that later-in-life products haven’t been created yet, or that the market for an otherwise-good-idea hasn’t been created…yet.

The most Apple-ish things

WWDC14 keynote was today. New software, no new hardware. The voice messaging via text is something that I’ve wanted for a long time. Interested to see how it affects texting-while-driving habits, and the resulting effect on accident rates. Will iPhone users get in less car crashes?

I wanted to put an idea out there. It’s something that I’ve thought about for a while with mobile phones, and I’m hoping for in the new iPhone.

The most natural way to hold a phone is vertical (portrait). The most natural image format to us is horizontal (landscape).

Why not allow people to take landscape pictures while holding the phone vertically? Why must I hold the phone awkwardly (and risk dropping it) anytime I want a decent picture?

There are a few ways of solving this.

The first is to simply take the existing image sensor, rotate it 90 degrees, and call it a day. This would work, but it’s not Apple-ish. It means you would have to hold the phone sideways if you actually wanted a portrait shot.

The other option (that I like) is to put a bigger image sensor in the camera, and downsample the image taken via software. That way you could have a massive picture (if you want), but easily get the type of picture most people want from a camera.

Service people’s defaults as the default case. This seems the most Apple way to do things.

Thoughts?

Real Problems vs Manageable Problems

Last month, during the height of the backlash against Uber over fares reported at seven times the usual during a New York snowstorm, Kalanick told WIRED that the bad publicity his company faced over surge pricing would pale compared to the impact of Uber not being able to offer a ride at all.

“If you are unreliable, customers just disappear,” he said. “The thing is that nowhere in any of the press are you hearing about us being unreliable.”

Such stubbornness is often seen as arrogance: the hotshot, elitist startup that believes it’s above the rules. But Uber has made the choice that getting bashed on Twitter — or by City Hall — isn’t as bad as customers opening up the app and seeing no rides on the map. The first threat is manageable. The second is existential — customers just open up another ride-sharing app to see if an Uber competitor has cars instead.

Dropbox and Uber: Worth Billions, But Still Inches From Disaster, by Marcus Wohlsen

Russian roulette is boring

Google Ventures put +$200 million into Uber. Google is also working on a self-driving car.

The self-driving car is really good. I saw one on the road a while ago, and the safety person behind the wheel looked AMAZINGLY bored. Said another way: the person whose life was in the hands of a robot was bored of making sure the robot wouldn’t kill them. That kind of trust only comes from consistent results.

It’s reasonable to think that in the not-too-distant future we’re going to have driverless Ubers.