Blockbuster is screwed.

Digital distribution is the future of media. Physical media is dead. Yeah, I know, you’ve heard it but don’t believe it.

Today, Penny preached at Resurrection and showed a clip from The Blind Side. Andrea and I had been meaning to see the movie for a while. Since the kids actually went to bed quietly and early, we figured we’d RedBox it and have a nice movie night at home.

One problem though – when your pastor preaches to a couple thousand people and include a clip, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to have a hard time finding said movie anywhere near the church. As a backup plan, I fired up google and searched for a torrent version of it. Within about 30 seconds, it was downloading. I then went to Redbox.com, searched for the movie (got lucky and the local box actually had one!), reserved it online, hopped into the car, drove over to the price chopper and picked up the movie. (in retrospect, it would have been faster to take my bike, but it was warm and VERY humid) . I took less than thirty seconds at the kiosk, and drove home. As I sat down in front of my computer, the download had just completed.

Total time elapsed: 17 minutes. In that time, 700MB had downloaded, and hadn’t even uploaded a complete single block (so don’t worry, MPAA, I didn’t actually share any of it). Since I had the DVD, I watched that instead, and had to confront issues such as cleaning the last renter’s fingerprints off the disc and sitting through commercials on the DVD that I paid to rent. I’ll go on faith that the file I downloaded contained the video, and it was kinda nice having a backup plan in case the disc was unusable. Either way, the content owners did get paid.

The process of reserving and picking up a movie on redbox is insanely easy and quick. And downloading a torrent was even easier. If you’re in the business of physical entertainment media, I hope that you’re trying to figure out your exit from that strategy. Browsing and renting at Blockbuster is a painful and expensive process, and that’s why their days are numbered. Redbox has a good thing going, but looking five to ten years down the line, they should be seeing a world of digitally distributed content, not physical media. Netflix has the right idea, but their streaming catalog could use much improvement.

How can content producers leverage the ease and efficiency of peer-to-peer technologies like BitTorrent? The distributed distribution model is incredibly efficient as several companies have discovered where software distribution is concerned. They need to stop fearing peer-to-peer digital distribution and instead leverage its power.

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