The Death of Windows – Coming soon to a screen near you!
No. Not that “Windows”, (just couldn’t resist the sensationalist headline). Instead this refers to ongoing debate about the questionable relevance of release windows in the context of digital entertainment. Basically, does it still make sense to employ multiple release windows when nowadays almost anyone can get illegal copies of films and music, sometimes even before the official release date?
This is not in support of piracy, in any way shape or form, but it does beg the question that illegal file-sharing may be addressing a demand that is left unfulfilled by the entertainment industry, i.e. “unfettered, and inexpensive access to any content, on any device, at any time and in any location that the legally purchasing customer wishes to enjoy it”.
And just what is so difficult about that you might ask, but industry people will undoubtedly try to reassure you, that is exactly what they would like to see too, if not for those pesky pirates ( …and their Pirate Bays, P2P filesharing, and expectations of free online content by those leeching Freetards and other “Long tailed” miscreants, grumble, grumble & grumble ). I suspect the underlying problem to be related to release window mechanism and the creation of artificial scarcity in order to generate / stimulate demand and fat-head (as opposed to long tail) revenues for each release window cycle.
In a creative industry that is accustomed to selling the same content over and over to its customers, the release window mechanism has been a great way to maximize return-on-investment for each successful title. However, with digital media (i.e. perfect copies), and broadband Internet (i.e. near immediate global distribution), this release windows model has struggled with the insatiable demand and expectations of instant gratification from a consuming public that has tasted the cornucopia of ‘free’ content online. This surely indicates that time has come to reconsider these release mechanisms particularly for digital content (e.g. music, films, books etc).
A recent Forrester report and blog post about music release strategies, has proposed a new windowing model which takes into account the growing importance of “free” and feels-like-free versions of works; but even this model does not go far enough in my opinion, because ultimately, any lag creates an opportunity for further content leakage. Perhaps the best solution would be to do away with any form of release windows and other artificial delays, which only create more demand / opportunities for leaked content, thus allowing the full focus of anti-piracy measures to remain solely on mechanisms of illegal content distribution, after the fact.