The potential audience for Bubble – an independently released, cinema verite movie shot with no big-name actors – is likely quite small. But consumer interest in gaining greater flexibility in how they view any media is huge.
And that flexibility is becoming increasingly possible, in large part, because of technological advances and the new business models made possible by these advances.
Consider the success of video sales on Apple’s iTunes Music Store. The company hasn’t released total video sales figures since October 31, 2005; but on that date it announced sales of one million video files – less than 20 days after the video store launched. What’s more, those sales have been touted by some studio execs as the reason behind the sudden ratings increase for two television shows available on the store: The Office and Lost.
Whether that particular relationship is correlational or causal is debatable – but not the popularity of free video services offered on sites such as YouTube and on the major networks’ sites. A case in point: the short humor clip “Lazy Sunday” first aired on Saturday Night Live in December, then quickly reached water cooler status when it was posted on the YouTube site, where it has been viewed more than four million times in one month – with no promotional effort.
Meanwhile, with broadband adoption in the United States now at more than half of all households, media companies such as NBC and CNN are flooding their sites with free video – and selling lucrative ads around the content. Miss an episode of The Daily Show? No problem: catch the entire show on ComedyCentral.com the next day. It’s a 180-degree turnaround from the previous model of forcing consumers to pay to view the clips online.
This loosening of the gatekeeping role traditionally held by media companies of all colors and stripes marks a profound shift in the relationship and expectations held by consumers about media consumption.
“Consumers understand the immediacy of content distribution through experiences with e-mail attachments, downloads, and streaming,” says Cuban. “If you can e-mail me the video or picture of your kids 10 minutes ago, a studio can make content available just as quickly.
“Convergence is over; we are now digital,” Cuban says. “One hundred percent of content can now be distributed digitally.”