Viewpoint: Warner Bros. quits, goes home and takes ball with them

By Chris Derrett
Editor in Chief

Sometimes I think companies just don’t get it.

That is the only way I can explain a major movie studio denouncing piracy, then essentially giving consumers more reason to do it.

On Jan. 10 at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Warner Brothers announced it is extending the 28-day window between the time its DVDs are released for sale and the time they are released for Netflix users. At one point there was no window between DVD release and Netflix release, and now the company has doubled that window to 56 days.

In a Warner Brothers press release, Warner Home Video North America president Mark Horak said, “One of the key initiatives for Warner Bros. is to improve the value of ownership for the consumer.”

Maybe Horak hasn’t kept up with the news lately.

Warner Brothers’ decision is coming in the midst of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act in Congress, both of which aim to stop online piracy. While powerful Internet websites such as Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia and Reddit oppose the bills, the movie industry and particularly the Motion Picture Association of America support the proposed legislation.

On Friday both bills were delayed under pressure from Internet websites, dwindling support from representatives and senators and outcry from the general public.

The biggest point of contention, I think, is with the bills’ lack of protection for websites accused of supporting pirated content.

Considering the protests from these bills, it is beyond my understanding how Warner Brothers can further delay the release of their DVDs to Netflix.

By forcing consumers to wait longer to get the latest DVDs, Warner Brothers is taking away consumers’ opportunity to actually pay for their movies. They are greedily trying to make people spend the $15 or $20 on DVDs before making them available on the $7.99 per month Netflix service.

What happens when people don’t want to buy a movie on DVD and have to wait 56 days to watch it via an affordable movie service?

Enter pirating websites.

I’m not saying this is an excuse for people to steal movies, but I am saying Warner Brothers gives people no incentive for trying to watch movies legitimately.

Netflix is an incredible deal, and most people can afford eight bucks a month for as many movies and TV shows as they can watch. But now people have few places to which they can turn for Warner Brothers’ new releases.

There’s always Redbox, which still has the 28-day DVD release window, but the kiosk’s price has increased to $1.20 per night. And in a society where even meeting the opposite sex isn’t enough to get people out of their houses (see eHarmony, Match, etc.), mail services like Netflix are much more convenient for both checkout and return.

Instead of changing its business model, Warner Brothers and the movie industry as a whole are acting like the kid who can’t win at kickball, who quits and takes his ball home with him. When Horak said Warner Brothers wants “to improve the value of ownership,” he might as well have said, “We want you to keep buying our DVDs. We see you’re buying fewer of them because you want your dollar to go further, and we don’t like that. Hopefully, with another 28 days to think about it, you’ll buy more DVDs.”

No. Consumers shouldn’t stand for this, and here’s two suggestions for Warner Brothers:

Either get with the program and allow people quicker access to your movies, or focus on producing movies actually worth buying on DVD.

Honestly, who would even want to spend time pirating Warner Brothers’ “Joyful Noise?”

Chris Derrett is a senior journalism major from Katy and is the Lariat’s editor in chief.