Wellcome to N-format war

The end of physical formats for movie and TV shows could be called digital convergence, a happy, wonderfully singular, unified digital world. Content moves seamlessly from your multifunction portable device to your TV, between your computers, and to every monitor and audio system and random networked appliance in between. This would be theoretically and technically possible, but in real life it does not seem to happen any time soon.

The Infinite Video Format War is Coming tells that the end to physical video formats doesn’t mean an end to format wars. In fact, once film and television content are no longer bound by physical media, we’re in for the mother of all format wars. When the physical disk media is gone, there won’t be just two, or three formats even. We’re talking 10 or 20 disc-free formats at the minimum, all with their own subscriptions, fee rates, movie selections, file resolutions and formats, use restrictions, preferred content providers and sometimes even hardware. Without discs, we may very well be screwed. The online distribution landscape is messy, uncoordinated and fragmented, and it’s going to get worse.

Convergence is the consumer’s dream: one system that supports all. Currently there is no magical box or service that will deliver everything, and there will probably be no such thing anytime soon.

But companies are doing their own daydreaming. Companies are mostly thinking about their own “ecosystems” —vertically integrated offerings. Within these ecosystems, there is limited convergence.  This does now serve the customers well. This will hurt the business development in the short and long run.

For the time being, neither Microsoft’s nor Apple’s ecosystems play nice with each other. And many other companies are pushing to the market with their own ecosystems. So we’re stuck with half-assed solutions. Many of them. You’ll definitely need a hardcore PC or Mac Pro to handle new video content, not to mention multiple client applications and some ingenious and possibly unlawful way of getting the stuff to your TV.

It would seem that the solution would be to choose a single distributor. But licensing on the content side makes this impossible.

Welcome to the N-format war.


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