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February 7, 2012
Tassi Isn't Done Yet
In today's follow-up post on Forbes, Paul Tassi exposes more of how he sees the Copyright Wars. In particular, he's keen to address the notion that he "gets it" and somehow the Cartel doesn't.
Contrary to what I may have implied yesterday, Tassi says that he doesn't believe the Cartel executives per se are dumb, just that they're behaving in un-clever ways. If so, the question is why. Tassi makes the familiar argument that the Cartel is deliberately overstating - if not outright lying and distorting - its losses due to illegal copying. At least, these numbers and reasoning are familiar to those of us who've been in the Copyright Wars for years; maybe they're less obvious to your average Forbes reader.
Finally he points out that the industry's continual focus on blockbusters can have huge distorting effects. A badly performing movie can easily lose a studio USD 100 million or more and yet they continue to invest in ever-bigger and ever-more-costly projects. This, he asserts is prima facie evidence that the industry is not in trouble.
Eh... maybe. Once you've built a business model around blockbusters it can be very hard to climb down. It's not just movies that are built around this - books, music, and drugs are all blockbuster-based business models. Hollywood doesn't seem to know how to do low budget; they seem to leave that to the independents to make and then pick up distribution. If you're built to do a few big things it can be hard to retool to do lots of small things. Also calculating P&L on a movie can be an exercise in black magic; just ask anyone foolish enough to sign a contract for a percentage of a film's net. Theater attendance is dropping and it's not always reliably the case that you can make up lost in-theater revenue via overseas or other ancillary sales.
None of which is to say that I'd defend the Cartel's ridiculously inflated numbers on "losses." I think there's very good evidence to show that they make up loss numbers. Just saying that Tassi's column isn't as spot-on as he might like.
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