Thoughts on Cost and Delivery of Media Content

Here’s what I want to see happen: I want to see North American governments stop trying to craft new copyright laws that cater to every special-interest group and end going to court over usage-based billing.  I want to see the problem turned on its head and a root-cause analysis conducted.  I want to see a subscription service where I can pay (for example) $50/month for the unlimited and unrestricted download of high-definition TV shows, movies, and music.  I want to see internet access fees and usage-based thresholds adjusted to fairly reflect the true total cost of service delivery.  Instead, I see time and money pissed away going after enabling sites like, across-the-board increases in the cost of internet service delivery loosely justified as a response to “skyrocketing” bandwidth usage, and government energy wasted on fighting decisions that internet service providers can charge for usage over a certain threshold (last I checked that’s how capitalism worked, comrade).  

It’s time to ask some pertinent questions: What drives people to legally and illegally download TV shows, movies, and music?  What sort of delivery vehicles have people embraced?  What is the true total cost of internet service delivery?  What kind of fee structure are people willing to accept?  What kind of fee structure is the industry willing to accept?  What number of episodes, songs, and movies will the average user download over the course of a year?

As these questions are answered, the root causes will become clear and solutions that work for all groups could be proposed rather than industries and governments chasing the moving targets that are copyright laws, internet service provision, and media content delivery.  Taking a quick survey of the landscape, the iTunes store, GrooveShark, and NetFlix seem to have good models that have tapped into how people want their content delivered and how much they’re willing to pay for it.  The kicker here will be for stakeholders on all sides to make concessions.  The big two that I see are: no, you cannot expect media to be free, and, no, you cannot expect to charge the same for electronic delivery as physical delivery.  While this doesn’t solve the problem, at least it advances the dialogue and provides a common base to build upon.

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