Can screen size payments really save the film industry?

Can screen size payments really save the film industry?
Dreamworks, dream on

Paying for it by the inch. That's not a new premium subscription tier they're introducing in Grindr, but how the boss of Dreamworks thinks we'll soon pay for our media depending on how large a display we're watching it on.

Instead of paying to watch a film when it comes out in the traditional launch week excitement window, Jeffrey Katzenberg thinks we'll pay to experience films at a higher resolution, blowing $15 to watch it on a cinema screen, $4 to watch it on the living room TV or $1.99 to watch it while trying to find a way to comfortably hold a telephone in front of your eyes for two hours.

Katzenberg told people at the Milken Global Conference that he thinks media consumption options will become this complicated within a decade, with our phones, tablets and TVs somehow upgrading themselves with the ability to inform the legal media servers how big our screens are and therefore how much we should be charged for watching that year's Spider-Man reboot.

Of course, the good citizens of the internet - hard drives and cloud lockers groaning under the weight of terabytes of hoarded and stolen digital media - beg to differ.

For your consideration

The cynics were out with their finest one-liners over at Salon, where reader Daniel H offered: "I like how these guys ignore the fact that they're the ones that are going to get 'disrupted', with fellow eyebrow-raiser ContessaKitty coming out with the simple action plan of: "How about make better movies."

Some less wise-arse commentary came from Cloudydayz, who bemoaned the possible death of the cinema industry. It's all about access to cheap snacks, apparently, with Mr Dayz predicting: "It's just not worth spending $50 for two people to show up, get a popcorn, a soda, and a candy when you can spend $5 to purchase on your own big screen, and have all the food and snacks that you want from your local supermarket or corner store. Greed, like everything else, is putting this American tradition out of business for the middle class."

Sneak your own food in, Cloudy. Nothing beats the thrill of sneaking a warm sausage roll out of your trousers in the back row.

Resolutionist discrimination

The most common sense, voice of the people comment regarding the issue of paying for stuff that doesn't come in a box was made by The Verge reader JRock3x8, who typed out this manifesto for the digital world: "Give me one price for your movie that I can watch on any device and at any quality that I choose. Other than bandwidth cost (which will become irrelevant over time), there is no good reason for you to price discriminate based on how I am enjoying your product."

This sentiment was agreed with by many, so he got a little orange thing by his name. Well done. In response, Jiahadye came out with an interesting idea, suggesting there ought to be one of those algorithms everyone talks about nowadays to judge quality and set a price, saying: "Figure out a way to charge based on production quality instead of video quality and I'm in."

To which reader Dsp4 responded with: "I'd love to see a pricing scheme based on Metacritic score. I say we start at $2 for 1/10 and ramp up to $25 for the tens."

Don't give them ideas. Although, given how poor most modern films are, we'd all save loads of money that way.

Gotta rip 'em all

On Techspot, reader CaptainCranky is keeping it old school with an HD full of ripped and hoarded things he's unlikely to ever watch. He comments: "This is why I think streaming sucks, everybody needs a DVD drive, a huge a** hard drive, (or several), and an account at Blockbuster. As soon as you convince yourselves that these things aren't necessary, you can live your digital life through a tablet, or your toy smart phone, and streaming is the only way entertainment is meant to be enjoyed, you're going to be listening to jacka**es like this one, time upon time again, ad infinitum, ad nauseum."

The inference being that streaming equals a loss of control of your film and TV library, with users today giving someone else the ability to stop them rewatching Babylon 5 when the media bosses decide they've seen it too many times and at too high a resolution.

In reply, user Vitaly T seems more resigned to letting someone else have their finger on the plug, saying: "Dude, you live in the past. Everyone agrees today that investing in a media is a waste of money when the media format has been changing so many times and with such short intervals."

The last comment in the thread belonged to SaintnSinner, who snapped: "Everyone is sick of the garbage they keep pumping out for the brain dead masses."

One size fits all

On The Register, reader HollyHopDrive wanted to talk about the economics of it all. He pointed out: "A movie from Google Play can cost 6.99 for SD and 9.99 for HD. What I don't get is its the same film - the actors did no more work, they had to film it in the highest resolution anyway. In fact, surely then going on to make a SD version costs money!"

The concept was expanded on by reader Squander Two, who sagely explained in response that: "A lot of industries have this problem: small cars cost about the same as large cars to manufacture; children's clothes cost about the same as adult clothes to manufacture; but these products have to be priced differently because of what customers are willing to pay. Katzenberg has identified (correctly, I think) an area in which customers will be willing to pay different prices for the same movie. Seems like a sensible move."

The thread then derailed into asking why, exactly, some people watch big-budget Hollywood blockbusters on telephone displays. Reader Crisp expressed amazement that this sort of low-brow (and squint-eyed) consumer exists, saying: "Fortunately for the market, it's full of people not in their right mind that would quite happily sit and watch a feature film on a 2 inch screen. I've seen them do it on the train."

But if it only costs them $1 to watch Spider-Man II 2014 Director's Edition, aren't they saving money? A rubbish film's not any better in HD.