As iDownloadBlog reported this morning, Hollywood studios are starting to experiment with releasing some films early digitally as theaters remain closed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The studios breaking their traditional theatrical window is major news, but Steve Jobs actually predicted digital home premiere of flicks still in theaters… well, a decade ago.
Apple’s late co-founder predicted early digital rentals for major new theatrical releases at The Wall Street Journal’s D8 technology conference back in 2010. Discussing how the studios should let customers embrace streaming and let people watch television shows whenever and wherever they want, Mossberg challenged Jobs about when he thought that might happen.
To that, the charismatic Apple co-founder responded:
It’s starting to happen now in TV because the studios (same guys that make movies and TV shows) feel less protective. They’re more willing to experiment with their television properties than they are with film properties so you’re starting seeing it in television.
You can get TV shows now, in same cases for free, the day after they broadcast and in some cases — in our case, we sell them the day after they broadcast. You’re starting to see more and more with film, too. So I think that is changing a lot in the next 24 months.
And then he dropped his prediction:
I even think that there’s going to be a way to watch a first-run movie at home before it comes out on DVD if you’re willing to spend a bunch of money.
A bunch of money.
A bunch of money.
You can watch that segment (mark 1:19:49) in the video embedded below.
And as we’re starting to see now with Hollywood companies like Disney, NBCUniversal and WarnerBros, “a bunch of money” means paying $20 or so if if you’d like to enjoy an early access to a movie released digitally on the same day it hits major theater chains nationwide.
You may think that forking out twenty bucks is too steep a price to pay for the privilege of watch a movie the same day it makes its theatrical release. I actually think of it as a very, very competitive pricing strategy, especially given cinema-goers rarely spend just $20 on their ticket, it’s closer to $50 if you count that overpriced popcorn and awful drinks served at cinemas.
And, the studios may be best served to cut out the middle man that is theater owners.
According to The New York Times, 80 percent of premium video-on-demand revenue goes to the studios due to low distribution costs. By comparison, revenue sharing between the studios and theater owners isn’t as drastically tilted in studios’ favor as it is with digital distribution.
In hindsight, such a major shift has been inevitable. No matter how you look at it, Steve Jobs’ early digital rentals prediction is as meaningful today as it was prescient in 2010.