Commentary

And Here's Another Reason to Thank Steve Jobs - Movies Everywhere

Steve Jobs introduces Macbook AirWe bargain over film going and video viewing in my house. My wife is philosophically opposed to sad endings and somber existential narrative. She walked out of the living room in the middle of "Barney's Version" because she found it too depressing to bear. I, of course, was the teenager sneaking into Manhattan to hit an uptown art house in the mid-1970s to catch Lina Wertmuller's "Seven Beauties of Fellini's Amarcord." "Why not just grab a knife from the kitchen and open a vein, for God's sake," she complains. "Why would I want to deliberately depress myself that way?"

And so we trade off films. I will indulge her love of superheroes and Robert Downey Jr., but I get an occasional cinema downer. She reserves the right to leave the room, of course. But all of these negotiations and compensations now can take place in our living room rather than Blockbuster, all because of Steve Jobs. Lest we forget, amidst all of the hosannas over his gadget wizardry and design genius. Jobs is also the guy who broke through the reticence of major film studios and TV networks to release their wares for online distribution. Anyone remember what the digital film sites looked like before the Video iPod and its re-engineered iTunes emerged five or six years ago? It was a sea of badly digitized public domain crap and a lot of martial arts movies. When Jobs persuaded the film industry that digital distribution could be made safe from pirates and could be done in a way that did not cannibalize their property's core value, it gave birth to a new ecosystem. And a new way of consuming media.

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My first video iPod was a marvel. At first I was able to pull the new genre of video podcasts (which the device essentially invented) off of iTunes and take them to the gym to give me fully customized, portable TV on the go. Steve Jobs was singularly responsible for undermining my reading rituals. Until then I used to spend an hour a day reading on the stairmaster every morning. When the major networks saw the wisdom of redistributing their news programming video podcasts I got in the habit of watching all of the Sunday morning chat shows over the course of the week while exercising. In short order, the catalog of feature films and TV episodes grew as well. Much of that transformation, still only a few years old, came from Jobs persuading and cajoling the major studios and labels to embrace digital distribution.

It is not just in the gadgetry that we should honor Steve Jobs' leadership. When it comes to content itself, he led the charge for models that fundamentally changed the patterns of media consumption. And pretty much killed my literacy level. Gee, thanks, Steve.
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