Did Sony Hack Itself?

The Hollywood studio needed any excuse to change its distribution model and start streaming its films. It found one in a cyber attack that only Hollywood could create. Updated 1/7/15

For years, studio moguls have eschewed technological advances and innovative distribution models that would upend their grip on power and the feudal order of Hollywood. The iTunes revolution that obliterated the old music landscape has had execs shaking in their Pradas, and retreating to the stronghold of theatrical release/DVD/on-demand cycle that has been profitable for so long.

So when North Korea hacked Sony Studios’ network and exposed embarrasing emails and other company secrets in an attempt to block the release of “The Interview,” the raiding hoards finally cracked their defenses, and Hollywood had no choice but to confront the new reality of living in a digital world.

Scolded by Obama and—more importantly—facing a $44 million production budget, Sony’s decision to rent and sell the movie through Google and YouTube was the first initial digital distribution for a major Hollywood studio. And it immediately shot to number one on the Google Store. Update: As of January 6, 2015, Sony reports that it has made $31 million in digital sales since the film went live December 24th.

While some minor studios have dabbled in online streaming of content and Netflix makes more original content every day, lack of innovation at the big studios has most likely been a result of pressure from the rest of the syndicate to not rock the apple cart.

How convenient, then, that Sony had no choice but to release the film online. Almost too convenient.

Did a nuclear power really try to sabotage a California dream factory? Does it really mean a threat to the First Amendment and the precious freedoms we Americans hold dear?

Perhaps this is a carefully scripted PR stunt and the excuse Sony has been looking for to break free from the Studio Cartel like some rogue OPEC nation investing in solar power.

However you land on conspiracies involving cooky communist dictators and botox barons of entertainment, one thing is certain: this is a watershed moment that historians will reference as Hollywood finally embraces digital distribution. The ramifications for production budgets and internet bandwidth battles will surely be affected, and the entertainment industry will never be the same.

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