Don't take it from me, take it from the man himself (who, according to Forbes magazine, earned a cool 30 million in compensation last year). Speaking at an entertainment conference last weekend, Disney CEO Robert Iger forecast "profound" changes in the movie industry.
Emphasizing his point, Iger stated that those running the movie business will have to make changes, "or you will no longer have a business". As reported by ShowBiz.com, Iger, in referring to the decline of DVD sales, consumer resistance to Blu-ray and the advent of hi-def & home theater proliferation, noted that his 11 and 7 year old sons preferred playing video games (as opposed, we assume, to watching movies), he added, "They are the best laboratory I know".
Really? Just for starters, wouldn't you love to see how much money Disney Studios has spent on focus groups over the last couple of years? Who knew all of that cash could have been saved just by locking the Iger kids in a glass room? And as for Bob, this guy has every conceivable resource to access the state of his industry at the tip of each fingertip, yet he finds watching 11 and 7 year old boys his best gauge of what's working in entertainment.
A few points need to be made here. First, these aren't exactly your typical kids. Well, maybe in Beverly Hills, but the movie industry, thankfully, doesn't live and die on what sells in Beverly Hills. They're kids who have exposure to practically any kind of entertainment they bat their eyes at and it's a good bet, with Dad running a movie studio and the world's biggest theme parks, they may just be a little jaded.
As for that video game playing thing, how many movies in the last ten years have been BASED on video games? Pay attention Bob, this is important. How many movies get made INTO video games? (That movie Tron, that you just green lit for a sequel jumps immediately to mind.) Seems like playing video games is a pretty strong qualifier for a potential movie audience. Do you ever catch the kids reading comic books? Ditto.
Next issue. People just aren't adapting to Blu-ray. Let's follow the logic - DVD's replaced VHS and are now being replaced by digital download - Blu-ray is an HD format exclusively for DVD - so, DVD's are declining in sales because of a new medium emergence while that new medium also offers an HD format - except that while Blu-ray can cost upwards of 50% more than standard DVDs, HD downloads cost about the same. Why in the hell should it be surprising to anyone that Blu-ray isn't going to save DVD?
I'd suspect Bob, that you have your very own home theater. Go cozy up in one of your theater lounges and get comfortable. Nice huh? Just for a lark, go out to the mall one night and take in a flick with the common folk. No, the El Capitan doesn't qualify. Go pay for a coke and a pop corn, or at least watch the expression on a guy who's doing that for his whole family. Makes watching movies at home seem like a pretty good idea. Especially if it's in HD. And if the ordinary guy skipped a vacation or two and dropped in a huge flat screen, even better. Ever increasing internet speeds and leaps in cheap data storage, are all ADVANCES in state-of-the-art. Not to be a dick Bob, but that's how we got DVDs after tape. As I recall, that revolutionized home video. And where's all that home video coming from?
From you Bob. And from your movie vaults. Take a look at the balance sheets and you'll remember that home video is where you make a butt load of money re-issuing all of those Disney classics! It's also the only place where you can recover the money your studio blows on theatrically released duds like Surrogates, Race to Witch Mountain and Confessions of a Shopaholic. Don't bite the hand that feeds you Bob - or buys your kids video games.
"Or you will no longer have a business", your words Bob. Just what business is that? Any delivery format needs content. Doesn't matter if it's a VHS tape or a ruby crystal that projects holograms - content is king. You my friend are in the content business.
If the format doesn't sell - any format, try looking at the message, not the messenger. That is, if you made good movies that people want to watch and watch again, maybe they'd be willing to buy them. And if you would embrace and fairly price the best possible formats that technology allows, maybe it wouldn't matter what technology that was. Your a movie studio Bob, so what do you care whether your profit comes from movie theater tickets or from home theater downloads, so long as it comes? But I guess you can't really discern all that by watching your kids jump to another level in Bioshock.
While we're letting the casually opinionated Mr. Iger think that over, we'll mention that he didn't actually offer much in the way of suggestions. Bob's idea was to shorten the span between theatrical and home video release. We don't have an argument with that, in fact we've been supporting Mark Cuban who's fought that battle for years, but we do question the point. Does Disney want to make a business out of direct-to-DVD? Last we checked, their head creative guru, John "Pixar" Lasseter, agreed that cranking out cheap made-for-video sequels is a really bad idea. Telling, that that would be an opinion educated by watching content rather than trying to scope out trends and second guess formats.
We think it's simple. If you want to save movies, simply make movies worth saving. If you want to insure the future of home movie sales, embrace every possible way to make movies look better and sell with value, then let the customer choose if they'd like it stored on a closet shelf or a hard drive, or on some ethereal virtual "cloud".
So Bob, we'd like to suggest you educate yourself with a little experiment. Go grab up all of those exciting, action packed video games you've been watching your kids play and replace them with the worst selling games on the list. Then watch the activity in your living room next weekend.
We're betting on the 11 year old blowing off the game console and heading straight to the computer to download the new release of Star Trek or maybe the 7 year old fires up Iron Man on the flat screen. With the new data in, just one weekend could change the fortunes of the movie business and completely destroy the future of video gaming. Ah, to be an Iger heir and hold the balance of world wide entertainment in your young, easily bored and trend-setting hands.
In the interest of disclosure and fair play, we'll own up to the fact that we think Mr. Iger is actually doing a decent job for Disney. Sorry, Bob, it was just fun to pick on you as you seemed miss the forest for the trees.
Any industry suffers when its products become poorly conceived, cheaply made or overpriced. Look no further than Detroit for confirmation. Rule 2 - don't tell you're customer how it's going to be, that's what the customer's telling you. You should be listening. Problem is, their voices seem to get through best when they put away their wallets.
To the CEOs out there - you should be making your products undeniably great instead of denying you're too often making less than great products. Movie studios need to produce engrossing and entertaining content. Let consumers decide how they want to see it and in what format they'd like to own it. The consumer. No one else.
They are your audience - play to them. They'll thank you for it.