Coronavirus: Live theatre and movie industries innovate as attack surfaces proliferate

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Image source: Wikipedia

Everyone agrees that the show must go on.  Now that it’s clear to most people that the coronavirus is not a short-term situation, the media and entertainment industry, and the businesses that deliver its creations to consumers, are adjusting.

Unfortunately, so are the number of piracy risks.

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On The Great White Way

This week, The Broadway League, the New York City theatre industry’s trade association, announced that it was suspending theatrical performances until at least April 12.

In their place, discussions are underway to live-stream popular shows at the same intervals by which they would normally appear in their theatres. According to the Web site (New York Show Tickets, Inc.),  the performances would not be recorded, in an effort to reduce piracy.

Pricing, logistics and technology are reportedly being discussed between a number of parties that have included the Broadway League, Amazon Prime, Broadway HD, Microsoft and Disney +, and a streaming price point of $29.95 per show has been proposed.

At the Opera

New York’s Metropolitan Opera launched “Nightly Met Opera Streams,” a free series of Live in HD encore presentations.  Initially, the series was to extend for three weeks, which began on March 13.

Each day, a different performance appears on the Home page of the Web site, where it is available for 23 hours.  Performances are also available through the Met’s Opera on Demand app during this period

At the Movies

Some of the Hollywood movie studios are offering new movies online on intended theatrical release date, or earlier than planned.  For example, Comcast announced day-of-release availability for Universal Pictures movies.  The Walt Disney Company released Frozen 2 to its Disney+ streaming service on March 15 in the US, and on March 17 in its other markets.

Sony Pictures announced that the movie Bloodshot, released to theatres on March 13, is available for digital purchase beginning on March 24.  Piracy of Bloodshot had been widely reported.

Movies that are in current release, like the 2020 version of The Invisible Man, are widely available for download from pirate sites.  Coronavirus has also prompted the revivial of pirate sites that were once left for dead, like Popcorn Time.

Why it matters

These initiatives represent experimentation coming from necessity.  Some video providers are putting forth business models that have been discussed in the past and dismissed out of hand, some used experimentally but never commercialized; and some of them represent entirely new ideas.

Attempts by studios to recover lost revenue by shrinking or eliminating the theatrical release windows may be welcomed by consumers who frequent legitimate video sources, although these moves may have less than their intended effect.

While limiting the number of performances and the length of time for which they will be available for streaming is well intentioned, it takes just one person sitting at the other end of a transmission to record the performances and place them on pirate download and streaming sites.

Hopefully, these theatrical organizations are putting anti-piracy technologies in place similar to what online video providers have been doing.

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