Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

A Hollywood Experiment: Paramount Streams “Transformers” to Your PC

If you want to watch “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” at home, you’ve got a lot of options. Here’s an unusual one from Paramount: The studio is renting streams direct to consumers, via its own site.

Pay $3.99 and you can watch Optimus Prime and his pals romp through Chicago on your PC as many times as you’d like, for up to 48 hours. If you’re running a Windows machine, you can pay $4.99 for an HD stream (you’ll need to have Microsoft’s Silverlight installed for both versions, so no iPad/iPhone option).

Advertising Age describes this as an end run around Netflix, but since Reed Hastings’s video service never streams movies during their initial VOD/DVD window, a more apt analogy would be Amazon and Apple, which do.

Studios like Time Warner’s Warner Bros. have also experimented with renting movies directly via Facebook, but those are generally older catalog films, not fresh stuff.

You can see why Paramount would be interested in trying this out — if it works, the studio keeps all of the rental fee, and it establishes a direct billing and marketing relationship with its customers — but it’s also easy to see the hurdles.

Unlike Apple, Amazon and Facebook, etc., Paramount will have a difficult time finding its fans. And once it does, it will require them to pull out a credit card to complete the transaction — a PayPal, Facebook Credits or iTunes account won’t help you here.

Paramount is careful to describe this as a “toe-dip” experiment. Nothing wrong with that. Hard to see where this leads, though.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work