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Movie Makers Just Don't Get It

Music, Movies, TV Shows423 words2 minutes to read

With all of the recent hoopla about Sony dropping the UMD format (here and here), it’s little wonder why. The reason? This Think Secret posting gives all the explanation we need:

Cinemanow bills itself as “the #1 legal movie download store” and sells movies a-la-carte, but for the same price, if not higher, in some cases, than actual DVDs, killing part of the incentive for purchasing a digital download.

Why would anyone want to spend more on a movie in a format that is significantly less flexible than a DVD? Yeah, I’m not sure either.

I flew from San Jose to Omaha last month, with a layover in Minneapolis. All-together I was on a plane for roughly 5 hours. I had my Powerbook, PSP, and iPod 5G with me. I had some videos I’d purchased from the iTunes Store on my iPod, and a couple of DVDs for my Powerbook.

While I was waiting for my flight to leave, I went to go find a UMD video to watch on the plane, since the iPod gets about 2 hours of battery life when playing video, and my Powerbook (with a 2-year-old battery) gets about 45 minutes of juice. I walked up to the counter, looked at the selection, and found a couple that I’d’ve liked to watch. Then I saw the price: $32.

Excuse me? Thirty-what? With a DVD, I can watch it on my TV, watch it on my computer, I can rip it to my iPod or PSP and watch it from there. With a UMD disc, I can only watch it on my PSP. Why would I want to do that? Since the format is so limited (along with any sort of “legal” (read: DRM’d) movie downloads from an online store), how on earth does it make sense to charge more for it? It doesn’t, and that’s why the format is failing.

It isn’t because it’s a bad idea — it’s actually a very good idea — but they need to drop the cost to 50% of the price of a DVD. Seriously, if most DVDs are around $17–$22, then they should sell the UMDs at $8-$12. Paying $30 for a 10-year-old movie is completely out of the question.

Sony (and all other movie companies), if you’re not willing to drop your prices on your UMD movies, then it’s definitely time for the format to go the way of the Aibo, Mini-Disc, BetaMax, ImageStation, Connect Music Store, and all of the “iPod Killers” you guys have had in the past.

Ryan Parman

is an engineering manager with over 20 years of experience across software development, site reliability engineering, and security. He is the creator of SimplePie and AWS SDK for PHP, patented multifactor-authentication-as-a-service at WePay, defined much of the CI/CD and SRE disciplines at McGraw-Hill Education, and came up with the idea of “serverless, event-driven, responsive functions in the cloud” while at Amazon Web Services in 2010. Ryan's aptly-named blog, , is where he writes about ideas longer than . Ambivert. Curious. Not a coffee drinker.