At CES on Monday, I was invited over to the Blu-ray booth to speak with top executives at the major Hollywood studios supporting Blu-ray. And while I didn't have the chance to speak with every studio, I did get to speak with the president and chief operating officer at LionsGate, Steve Beeks.
And while Beeks seemed like he had solid command over the finer points of the movie industry, I was interested to see why his studio chose Blu-ray over the alternative.
Expecting the canned answer like, "Well, we thought it was the superior format and I'm happy to say that we were right," you could imagine my surprise when the very first reason he gave was Blu-ray's piracy controls.
For those of you who don't know, Blu-ray's piracy controls--largely based on AACS, BD+, and BD-ROM Mark--are easily the most stringent format to date and have only partially been circumvented to this point.
Regardless, I was utterly appalled at the thought that with all of its benefits--high-capacity, interesting new features to employ while playing movies, major industry backing--Beeks chose piracy as the first talking point.
Of course, I had to find out more.
Immediately after finishing his spiel about Blu-ray, I asked Beeks a simple question, "With all of these piracy concerns (as you mention), how do you stop looking like the bully when you go after some kid making a few copies in his house instead of the overseas cartels in gunships?"
After a significant amount of skirting the issue, Beeks told me (correctly) that there's no way to stop piracy and the best way to combat it is to offer more features and give people a reason to buy the official version.
And yet, if that's true, why should the studio even care about which format has the more stringent piracy controls? After all, if you know how to fight piracy and you think you're doing a good job at it, why waste your time paying more for a format when you can have the same sort of features on the other and pay less to manufacture discs?
Of course, LionsGate isn't the only company that should be beaten up in this column. The entire motion picture industry is rife with a bunch of executives who have no idea what the average 18- to 35-year-old person wants when they buy a disc, and to make matters worse, they think they do.
I have said it once and I will say it again: the music and movie industries have become relics of the old school and are unwilling to adapt to the times. DRM is not only hurting each studio's bottom line, it's damaging their ability to look like the good guy in an environment where pirates look like they are.
If nothing else, I learned that the movie industry is run by a subset of individuals who are totally insulated from the real world. If not already proven by the MPAA, look no further than to those poor people who thought they owned something, only to find out later they were being sued for a ridiculous amount of cash for their "crime."
If you ask me, it's time the executives at all these movie studios stop wasting our time with banalities and wake up to realize that the real pirates are out there kicking their teeth in. For once, stop going after the guy who makes a few copies in his room and find the head of an international piracy cartel to stop pirating.
Until that happens, look for even more critics, and even worse publicity.