I just received this email informing me I have 302 movies stored in the cloud that I need to move to make sure they don’t get flushed down the cyber-toilet. The movies are currently stored by the Ultraviolet service which is now closing down.
The timing of the email comes 12 days before Apple is expected to announce its new subscription video service and represents a new chapter in the power struggle between Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
The Ultraviolet association was an initiative set up by the Hollywood studios designed to encourage consumers to own movies in the cloud. The thinking was that with one locker in the cloud accessible from multiple platforms you could increase the convenience of streaming your collection. (Full disclosure 1: I used to work for Warner Bros. one of the key evangelists of Ultraviolet)
The problem was that the biggest streaming platforms that really matter to consumers had no incentive to participate since it was a potential backdoor to losing customers and giving control back to the studios and creators. Furthermore, consumers in general enjoy paying a fixed monthly fee to consume as much TV as they want rather than buy and own individual titles.
With Ultraviolet closing and Apple and Disney soon to enter the subscription video space, this is the latest chapter in an ongoing power struggle for how we consume TV and movies. In this struggle, each side is developing their ability to survive independently of the other. The platforms that deliver the content now have the ability to create their own content. The studios on the other hand are developing their ability to deliver content directly to consumers. Tracing the history of this power shift, I’m calling round 1 the ‘Rise of the Albanian Army’, based on the 2010 statement by then Time Warner chairman Jeff Bewkes who said that worrying about Netflix was like worrying about the small Albanian Army.
By 2013 and the launch of Netflix’s first big original House of Cards the studios knew that Albania was a force to be reckoned with. We entered a period of relentless growth for subscription video across the globe, the ‘Global Internet TV era’. (Full Disclosure 2: I was part of the Netflix global expansion team, helping to launch the service in Japan)
In round 3, Silicon Valley definitely has the upper hand, poacher has turned gamekeeper. With the entry of Apple, Disney+ and Warner Media, how much will the power balance reverse ? In the clash of global streaming platforms who will win the ‘Game of Streams’?
As creators, where do you sell and stream your content and what will be the trade-offs in commercial terms and longevity ? As consumers how many services will I need to maintain to stay happy? Whatever the case, I’ll be holding onto my faithful catalogue of 302 movies in the cloud.