Convergence, the combining of communication devices such as IT, social networking, media content with a service, product, or process. With the integration of IT in our social lives it has become a prerequisite for industries to include IT into their business model. An example of a contemporary convergence with technology is the film industry, which has illustrated a struggle of integrating their content to reach a larger audience.
The Internet is a technological determinate factor, which forces the film industry to incorporate an easier way for film to become available to everyone. Within 10 years time, an intelligent convergence would include a technological device that allows audiences to watch any film or television show from any medium, instantaneously. This would force the film industry to remodel their structure of distribution. The current model being the distribution of films to specific venues, television networks, and finally distributed on DVD to suppliers or rental stores. Why not reduce those mediums to one and reach a much larger audience? The reason being that studios are comfortable with the former system because “ the studios don’t want to blow up a business model that allows them to sell the same movie over and over in various formats to venues” (Grover, Satariano, & Levy, 2010, p.54).
Television took the lead in the entertainment industry with the option of streaming free television shows on a network’s website, mainly limited to public networks. Then finally studios and networks converged with Apple and made television shows, movies, and eventually movie rentals available for purchase on iTunes. Studios became fearful that the film industry might become a parallel to the music industry, which is similarly happening in the publishing industry at the moment. Streaming videos for free on the Internet to deter illegal downloading seemed like a counteractive decision to the public’s demand. This backfired greatly when the writer’s strike began in 2007 and writers were demanding more incentive for their written material produced online: “They’re demanding a slice of the profits whenever their dialogue is downloaded from the internet–say, when you watch The Office on your iPhone or stream Desperate Housewives on ABC’s website”(Svetkey, B, 2007).
However, the public still demands an easier access to films and television. In the past 4 years I have found myself going to the theatres less frequently because of the lack in convenience. In more urban areas it can take an even greater effort to make your way to the theatres, with public transportation as the only option. One answer to this is the rental service, Netflix. It had the perfect pitch of saving time and money by ordering a subscription online for a low fee and a choice of 100,000 film and television shows. All of this was automatically managed online through a queue system and delivered directly to your mailbox. Netflix also saw the opportunity of convergence with the Internet and film rentals, by including a ‘Watch Instantly’ on the website decreasing the wait time for movies and television shows being mailed. The service is still limited; “ Watch Instantly features only 17,000 films and TV shows, compared to Netflix’ 100,000 or so titles on DVD. Netflix stream older titles ‘but not new releases’ ” (Grover, Satariano, & Levy, 2010, p.54). Internet streaming sites such as Netflix can get there, but they must appeal to the big studios. “ The studios are willing to do so-but there’s a catch. Warner Brothers and other studios want Netflix to accept the same deal Hollywood has with the cable companies. They charge about $4 each time someone watches a new movie and then kick the studios 65% to 70% of the take” (Grover, Satariano, & Levy, 2010, p.55). So the problem isn’t if we can change the system to become more available to audiences, but can audiences agree to pay the price for more convenience?
Another popular website, Hulu.com that has created a huge convergence with television networks and internet streaming, is one of the largest effort by television networks to give free content access to viewers online. Mostly an effort from the NBC network, Hulu made it easier for audiences to watch all their favorite television shows on the internet for free without having to browse to each network’s website for streaming. While the biggest public network streamed their television shows, other networks quickly signed up to do the same with Hulu. A large amount of people use Hulu as their television content provider, it doesn’t hold equally true for films. Hulu has a very limited selection of movies, with most being outdated or less mainstream. Another large flaw with Hulu is its inability to stream outside the United States, limiting the amount of people it can reach.
The main source of revenue for Hulu is currently advertising, which may not continue in the future according to the owner Jason Kilar. Jason Kilar is considering charging a subscription cost for the content sometime in the year 2010. This has always been the business model of another streaming site theauteurs.com. This site works quite well because it caters to the more sophisticated audience that values consuming a smaller amount of quality content and are willing to spend a little bit of money to watch films, which aren’t available on the mainstream market. In addition, the website contains social features as well as connecting cinephiles, “a person who is fond of motion pictures” (The Oxford English Dictionary, 2008, p.123). The convergence of different formats to create the Auteur’s Internet streaming quality is what set the Auteur apart from other Internet streaming websites. “Engineers work behind the scenes to boost the viewing experience, painstakingly tweaking the compression settings for each film with a tool chain that includes mplayer, x264, ffmpeg, and mp4box. They also add lush 5.1 Dolby surround sound”(Svetkey, B, 2007). All of these Internet convergences are great services, but the film and television industry is nowhere near its ultimate potential of interlinking Digital Media and we’ll be sure to see a change within the next ten years.
Grover, R., Starniano, A., & Levy, A. (2010). Honest, Hollywood, Netflix Is Your Friend. Business Week, 1(2),54-55.
Grover, R. (2009). Hulu’s Tough Choices. Retrieved February 7, 2010 from http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_49/b4158028934714.html/.
Zjawinski,, S.(2009). Streaming Hard-To-Find Films For Cinephiles.Retrieved February 7, 2010 from http://www.wired.com/entertainment/hollywood/magazine/17-06/pl_screen/.
Svetkey, B.(2007).Striking Home. Retrieved February 7, 2010 from http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20159253,00.html/.
Oxford English Dictionary (2008). Oxford: Oxford University Press.