August 05, 2009

Netflix, the Library and the Death of the Entertainment Industry

So, Netflix has been offering streaming video for a while now. Even if you have a 1-movie at a time plan, you can just sit at your computer or TV all day streaming one movie after another. The idea is that you're still just renting 1 at a time. You're just given immediate access to it and immediate returns.

I have recently become a fan of my local library's free system of renting movies from their network of libraries. I don't think I have come across a movie yet that I haven't been able to secure from this network. The one downside is that it sometimes takes a while to get to the front of the "on hold" queue.

But what happens when libraries start streaming their entire collections? You'll have instant access to every movie you could possibly think of. All for free. Probably music, too.

What's this going to do to the entertainment industry?


Ryan said...

We too are huge fans of our local library, 'renting' all of our movies from there. I don't think it will be too long before all music and movies will be entirely digital.

Beth said...

I think you are failing to consider the amount of technology and expense it will take to be able to stream movies. Netflix can do it because they have a huge subscriber base that funds their hardware and techs to keep it running. Libraries are no where near being able to do this on their own (through funding, grants and donations) and if a company is going to provide it for them, it would not and could not be for free.

I think you are more likely to see libraries quit "renting" movies and music because of the rise of itunes and netflix than you are to see them stream it.

Eric Olsen said...

hmm, my library is currently doing a very limited version of it. really crappy movies and some decent audiobooks. even if thousands of libraries started chipping in, you still don't think it would be feasible?

I mean, I know there's an entertainment lobby pulling the strings behind the same people that would vote for library funding, but besides that...

Beth said...

I think it would be feasible to always have a crappy version of it.

Here is an interesting article on what it costs netflix to stream right now:

"While Netflix said it spent around $40M for their online video offering in 2007 and most folks I spoke to said they thought Netflix spent twice that last year, clearly it appears as if Netflix is ramping up to spend close to $100M in 2009."

$40M to stream crappy old movies and tv shows. I don't think a library stands a chance without the studios support, which they will never have because streaming from a library generates no money for them.

I think the bottom line is that even networked libraries that pooled their resources would not be able to offer this for free. There is no $40million gov grant waiting to be applied to a national library movie network. And if there were $40million out there for libraries I would rather see more books on shelves than movies on my computer.

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