Digital Monopolies A Bigger Threat Than Piracy, Says Miramax CEO

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Miramax CEO Mike Lang and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos gave a keynote talk at the MIPCOM conference. The two discussed the challenges they face in the continuously changing digital world. Both agreed that piracy is not much of an issue as long as you give consumers what they want. Digital monopolies, such as Apple's dominance in the music industry, are a far bigger threat.

pirateIf we believe the words of the MPAA and RIAA, piracy is the root of all evil resulting in billions of dollars in losses every year.

However, not all of the big players in the entertainment business subscribe to this theory. During the MIPCOM conference where movie and TV moguls gather, Miramax CEO Mike Lang and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos touched on the subject of piracy. Both appeared to have a rather positive stance towards the issue.

Lang, whose company today debuts the Blu-Ray version of the cult classic Pulp Fiction, emphasized that people don’t necessarily want to pirate, as long as they get what they want. “Innovate or die,” should be the motive of entertainment industry companies, where it’s key to listen to customers.

“Piracy has not been the bigger issue for our company,” Lang noted. “I think all consumers at some point in their life , whatever market of the world, don’t want to pirate. They really don’t.”

“Maybe not college kids, but ultimately over time they do not want to pirate, and that the way to react to that is to offer legitimate and great service for them,” he added.

Responding to a question from the audience, Miramax’s CEO talked about the lessons he learned from the music industry. Interestingly, Lang disputed that piracy is the main problem for the music industry.

“Why everyone does focus on piracy, for the music industry, what’s really interesting is that it’s not the biggest issue for the music industry,” he said. Lang explained that the change to digital music and the lower price tags that come with it shouldn’t be discounted.

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos agreed on the effect of lower prices and said that “Walmart changed the music industry more than Napster.”

Another problem, related to the pricing issue, is the emergence of digital monopolies such as the one Apple has in the digital music business. This threatens the music industry more than piracy, Miramax’s CEO suggested.

“Apple is the strongest company in the music industry because there was not enough competition, and still to this day there is not enough competition. As an industry it can’t then influence, packaging, merchandising – all the things that are vital,” Lang said.

“As an industry – the movie industry – we have to be very cognisant of that. That’s why we did our deal with Netflix, and why we also did our deal with Hulu. We want multiple players to be successful.”

Sarandos also learned his lesson from watching the music industry struggle with their digital strategy. “When consumers tell you what they want, give it to them. Figure out a way to give it to them, because they will figure out a way to get it.”

Or in other words. Don’t blame piracy for everything, but innovate – or die.

Miramax CEO Mike Lang and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos


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