Are Paid Downloads Dead?

Entertainment execs gathered for a Variety-sponsored panel at CES yesterday to discuss technology’s impact on the entertainment biz. One key takeaway: ditching paid downloads in favor of ad-supported streaming. Here’s a telling quote that Variety pulled from the talk:

“People online want to watch for free, because they can get content for free via piracy,” said Fox digital media prexy Dan Fawcett. “Downloading to own and keep on a PC seems to be losing out. People like to watch on an impulse.”

Fawcett’s right. Why clutter up your hard drive with big video files that are either incompatible with some device you have now, or will be obsolete down the road, when Hollywood can host it for you? Bolstering that argument is the fact that DVD sales are declining, so maybe there isn’t a lust to own a massive library of movies anymore, either.

Having said that, Hollywood needs to buck up and get its act together. Enough with the exclusivity, already. Studios and networks need to match availability with our impulse to watch. It’s inexcusable to parse out episodes of TV content in drips and drops. If there are 100 episodes of a show, put all 100 online (I’m looking at you, Hulu). Go ahead a slap an ad in there — as long as it isn’t too junked up, we’ll watch.