Russell Davies
Russell Davies
A view from Russell Davies

Russell Davies: Why agencies may be longing for the death of Hollywood

You probably noticed the Wikipedia blackout last week. It, and many other sites, went dark in protest against the SOPA/PIPA legislation being discussed in Washington.

SOPA/PIPA were the latest overwrought legislative bids to prevent piracy of movies and video content. Wikipedia and others protested because they thought they handed way too much power to copyright-holders - letting them shut down sites they accused of piracy with little oversight or means of appeal.

It was remarkable because millions of dollars and many months of careful lobbying by Hollywood were swiftly overturned by co-operative action by lots of blogs and new-media players. It seemed to represent a little shift in the way influence works in Washington.

It was also interesting because it seemed to suddenly remind a lot of internet people that Hollywood is still there - and worth taking down.

The media entrepreneur Rex Sorgatz put it like this: "Right now, I pay over $200 per month to have 1,600 TV channels pumped into my apartment. How many of those channels do I watch? A dozen, max. This is clearly broken. Really broken. Stupid broken. And we all know this has to end, somehow. And we all know it will end, somehow. But no-one knows quite how. Maybe it will be fixed by Apple, maybe Hulu, maybe Netflix, maybe Google; probably, by something we haven't even seen yet. But I think we can all agree that this broken system is going to be fixed, somehow."

He argues that Hollywood is ripe for the sort of disruption that's overtaken publishing, news, magazines etc. Production and distribution costs will plummet, new forms will emerge, some old players will survive and a thousand little start-ups will repopulate the Los Angeles studio complexes.

Simultaneously, the respected investment company Y Combinator called for start-ups to approach it with proposals that would "Kill Hollywood".

It put it this way: "The main reason we want to fund such start-ups is not to protect the world from more SOPAs, but because SOPA brought it to our attention that Hollywood is dying. They must be dying if they're resorting to such tactics. If movies and TV were growing rapidly, that growth would take up all their attention ... And yet the audiences to be captured from movies and TV are still huge. There is a lot of potential energy to be liberated there."

Why should you care about all this? Partly because it's clear that things aren't going to get dull and stable any time soon. Media disruption has a long way to go. And partly because, as agencies continue to be excited about "making their own stuff", maybe a dying entertainment industry would be a good source of customers and revenue.