New Entertainment Options: Locusts Here To Eat Crops

Now entertainment delivery options come at us like locusts in season. Perhaps they are here to clean out a few things.

Traditional parts of the business--our main entertainment crops--are suffering. For the last three years in a row, domestic box office was down, and now consumer spending on home video has dropped for the first time in 25 years. This is all occurring at the same time that boy toy and girl toy possibilities abound--iTunes, cell phones, and other portable entertainment players.

Despite the bad news, many critics say Hollywood had a good year--in terms of the quality of the movies made. But there was no rush to see these movies. Fewer people this year wanted to take two hours out of their day to travel to a location to sit in the dark with some strangers. Instead, when viewing movie commercials on TV, they grunted dreaded words that freeze the hearts of film marketing executives--"I'll wait for it come out on video"--which in theory wouldn't be bad news for studios' home video divisions.



But that's when it got worse. Consumers would look at those ads and think, maybe I'll wait for the music video, or the behind-the-scenes segment on "Entertainment Tonight," and then decide. Later, they would forget they ever needed to see "King Kong" or "The 40-Year- Old Virgin."

Some think it's a duration thing. No one wants to spend two hours doing anything, anymore. (Spinning and aerobic classes are only an hour long.) TV provides the proper length--entertainment in one-hour or half-hour chunks. Even ABC with its iTunes deal offers condensed football games in downloads of 15 minutes.

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch told a media conference in Phoenix yesterday that the future problem is cheap distribution--which will allow producers to bypass studios altogether, going instead--in theory--to Google, iTunes, VOD, and perhaps even News Corp's own DirecTV.

We are in a time where there is a big wave of technology leading the entertainment waters. Keeping the locusts at bay is only a temporary thing. They always come around every few years.

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