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Monday, February 11, 2008

A bad deal for the future of DVDs?

So it looks like the Writers' Strike is all over but for the voting. The deal sounds less than ideal, but many working writers seem to be in favor of it.

One thing that does not bode well for the future of my industry - DVD Manufacturing - is the fact that the writers did not get an enhanced piece of the DVD revenue pie. Essentially, it sounds like that was a concession that was made in order to get more in the way of download revenue and access to future media.

For a lot of people, television is as much a part of life as the flesh-and-blood workaday world, or even - and I find this hard to believe - the online world. Friends aren't just a bunch of inexplicably well-off twentysomethings living together is some incredibly expensive New York real estate; to a lot of people, these are their friends, people they have over in their living rooms five nights a week. They hang with Will and Grace, sleuth along with the kids at CSI, laugh and cry with the Gilmore Girls.*

For many people television establishes normative behaviors. What you see on TV - well, that's what people do, 'cause you just saw them do it. Hairstyles, music, catchphrases, attitudes, modes of behavior - maybe it's not exactly a case of monkey see, monkey do, but it's pretty close. Over time, the behaviors of viewers begin to ape the behaviors of people on TV.

And this isn't always a bad thing. I've known people who were raised without exposure to television, and they...well, to put it politely, they missed out on some of the socially normative aspects of television. It wasn't like they were from another planet, but certain behaviors that we take for granted from being exposed to them on television were never developed in these people. On some level, they almost suffered from a lack of empathy. (Strange to think of empathy as being taught to us by the idiot box; this is essentially a reversal of a situation described by Philip K. Dick in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?...or was this sequence only in the movie version, Blade Runner?)

To summarize: by being able to establish the normative behaviors that influence TV viewers, television writers wield enormous power.

So what am I getting at? That writers can shape society for the better by showing more characters who behave according to a moral or ethical code that benefits both the individual and society? That the TV world can do with a few more Cliff Huxtables and a lot fewer sociopathic serial killers? That TV writers have an awesome responsibility, and should be afforded a lot more respect - and money - than this deal grants them?

Naaaah. What I'm getting at is my concern that, from this day forward, you will never again see a TV character purchase or rent a DVD. (I have no idea how often you see that nowadays, but work with me here.) From now on TV characters will seek out their entertainment online, from sites similar to - or perhaps identical to - the ones which in the real world will actually generate some revenue for the writers. After all, why should TV writers promote a medium like DVDs which pays the writers almost no dividend at all?

And if this is so, it will be a very bad development for the DVD world. And a very unfortunate development brought un us by corporate greed and short-sightedness. A decision ever-so-slightly in another direction could have paid huge dividends in terms of increased DVD sales and rentals. With this deal, who can say what will happen?

*You can tell I'm keeping up with what's currently on television, right?


whimsicalnbrainpan said...

You make a very valid and interesting point.

supertiff said...

so, when you talk about dvd's, do you mean blue-ray, too? because i just learned that netflix is moving exclusively to blue-ray...and i'm assuming the rest of the world will be as well, and i'm currently shaking my fist at my near-dead dvd player and my 8 million shelves of dvds.


and i still have at least 80 vhs tapes!


so, yeah. i was meaning to ask if that whole blue-ray thing would impact your job at all, or if it would be the same, basically.

other than that, you do have a good point. very interesting. my cousin is a member of WGA (she wrote the rugrats movie, that's probably her most known work), and i'm still waiting to hear her latest updates.

at any rate, i am glad to know that my tv will be back soon.

Marc said...

I don't think DVDs are going away, but I know many young people who download their favorite tv shows and movies rather than wait for the DVD.

~Deb said...

With "on demand" services that our cable companies supply, I haven't used my DVD in a year or so... Blockbuster? Never. If I go to Blockbuster, it's only to buy my favorite movies for my collection, but that's about it. Even the whole Netflix - where they mail you the DVD - it's not worth it to me, especially if someone relies on a PO Box only...

Our characters are generated a lot from television. Even relationships are based on how to act - PASSION MUST BE KEPT ALIVE OR DIVORCE THEM - type of message. Probably why most marriages fail today.



Hope you're having a great day!

marcoshark said...

I was wondering why Amazon was starting to deep discount DVD box sets.