Do Universal understand piracy and how to combat it?
Catching a story last week, before I went off for a fantastic holiday relaxing in the sun, I saw this story about Arnold Schwarzenegger leading the yearly conference entitled USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy and the stars and film industry talent that appeared to talk on the panel entitled The Power Of People and Innovation - Media/Hollywood Leader's Perspectives.
While there was nothing ground breaking from most of them what caught my eye were the different comments from Ron Meyer, the President of Universal Studios, Rob Friedman, one of the chairmen of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, and Jimmy Iovine, the head of Interscope Records, regarding piracy and where the fault lies.
I was just watching the very good Looper in the cinema and was greeted with an advert before the film telling me that cinemas are going to die because of film piracy. I was appalled and insulted, genuinely. It's as if those responsible for the advert are crediting me with as much intelligence as they would a Hollywood studio comedy audience. Oh yes, I did just say that.
There are two things that anger me and belittle me as an audience member sitting in a cinema about that promotional piece, one is that I'm already in the cinema, I've paid my money and I'm sitting there to watch the film so why do they need to batter me and tell me that cinemas will die because of piracy, I'm not pirating I've paid to watch the film!
Secondly cinemas are not dying because of piracy, unless they're telling me that cinema takings bear no relation to increased costs of digital and 3D equipment; or the raised costs by studios for 3D films; the pushing of the cost of 3D glasses onto the cinemas from the studios; studios churning out poor films that don't attract audiences; multiplexes filled with the same films across multiple screens, and generally cinema costs being really high for films and beverages. Seriously with all that are they telling me that piracy is killing the cinema?
That advert is marketing and designed purely to influence the audiences to believe that piracy is the evil that is causing the world to crumble, marketing that over any of the other reasons.
However at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, as reported in Deadline, we heard some interesting comments from studio heads.
Jimmy Iovine the head of Interscope Records said the following, revealing that they are still stuck in the old mindset and aren't interested in trying to entice people away from piracy, and while we have to be clear that this has been pulled out of a larger speech it does seem a rather arrogant and fixed viewpoint. He said that they need to...
"...use our leverage to get Google and the others to play ball"
I think that refers to stopping search engines allowing the return of sites that have pirated content.
Rob Friedman is one of the chairmen of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group and his view is a little better. They are saying that the film industry has learned from what the music industry has been through and so does that mean that they have learned to embrace new technologies and entice the small minority of pirates rather than demonise and attack individuals and try to sue and imprison them?
"Piracy is a giant giant issue for us as an industry but we absolutely learned from what happened to the music industry. But our ice cream is melting a lot slower than the music industry's..."
So he's suggesting they have more time to deal with the issue and it's interesting the analogy he uses suggesting that their once lucrative and dominated run of profits is going, not that their main course or their bread and butter is being taken away, just their suite. It's an interesting choice of words that suggests piracy is not destroying the industry and the cinemas as the marketing suggests.
Ron Meyer is the President of Universal Studios and he said the most positive of the comments and the most intelligent.
"Audiences are not looking to steal it. We just have to give them more reason to buy it...We're content providers. Innovation is a friend not a foe. But the important thing is we get paid for it. People are used to getting music for nothing, but the movies are different. We have to get smarter about it."
Wow. All round win for the intelligent, pragmatic and audience aware Ron Meyer and Universal Studios. This is the guy who seems to have it right and understands what is really happening. Mind you I'm not saying the others don't, just that they aren't trying to deal with it correctly, Meyer and Universal sound like they are.
This is surely the way to limit piracy, because it will never be stopped totally but it can be reduced right down so that it doesn't impact the huge profits that studios are trying to protect however they need to secure their film distribution better and embrace the technology to find new ways of getting their product to the customer before the professional pirates can.
Meyer and Universal have impressed me, now the other studios need to get that attitude in their heads.