TV and Movie content go through distinct release phases. The release window (as they are colloquially called), is based the revenue that the content derives from each phase. Traditionally, for film, theaters are given the first exclusive window, months after which it is made available via other formats: DVD/home video, followed by PPV/VOD and finally broadcast TV (ad supported). TV content usually has a first run on their programmer network (such as ABC) and then gets distributed via VOD and finally moves onto syndicated channels (such as TBS) as re-runs.
Films will likely always be released in theaters first, as box-office results tend to generate buzz that translates into demand for the film in other distribution channels. However, consumer demands are shifting towards Video on Demand. Most consumers have fancy home theatres and prefer watching entertainment when they want it, in the comfort of their homes or when on the road. This trend means that Video-on-demand is clearly where content distribution is headed.
Although cable has been providing VOD content for some time now, the Internet is increasingly becoming the way to distribute this content (both TV and film). Most shows are available for viewing the day after airing on web sites such as ABC.com, hulu.com etc. Movies are finding distribution via streaming services on Amazon, Apple iTunes and Netflix (whose recent earnings figures blew everyones expectations and seems to be largely based on their streaming service.
This shift in consumer behavior is causing distributors to not only experiment with smaller release windows, some have even gone so far as to flip the window head over heels.
Are the days of theatre doomed? I don’t think so, see my article earlier on what theatres & hollywood are doing to fight back. What are your thoughts?