With news today that BluRay DVD has won the high quality image battle over HD DVD, one has to ask the question as to whether it is the consumer or corporations tht are the deciding factor. It was only a month ago that I was faced with the dilemma of making a choice between BluRay and HD DVD. The HD receivers were priced at a very attractive price point, but in the end it was not price that dictated my decision to go with BluRay. It was the fact that BluRay had more of the exclusive distribution deals than HD DVD. I saw the writing on the wall, and as a consumer, the choice was not mine to make. The choice was made by Disney, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Blockbuster, Netflix, and others. As a consumer I was frustrated. Dreamworks would not offer movies in the BluRay format, but many others would. My consideration shifted to a player that could handle both. Nope, that didn't work either.....the price was out of this world. As a consumer I was forced to decide which studios made more movies that I wanted in higher quality. Thus, I made the decision to get Universal and Dreamworks movie in poor quality, and all others in higher quality.
The same can be said for satellite radio. In fact, most subscribers to satellite radio never get to make a choice on service. Instead they are locked into the service that has an exclusive deal with one of the SDARS companies. If you are buying a GM, the choice is made for you. You will be an XM subscriber. A Ford buyer? Again, the choice is made for you. You will now be considered a Sirius subscriber. Where does the consumer fit into all of this? The answer is virtually nowhere. Corporations are the ones pulling the strings. Corporations are the ones placing the bets.
With the proposed merger of Sirius and XM, there is a hope that the consumer will once again have a say in the matter of their audio entertainment. True, there will be only one SDARS company, but it is the A-La-Carte programming that will give consumers at least some power over the process. Consumers will have the power to add or delete programming, and will have various pricing options to choose from. In addition, with AM, FM, HD, iPod jacks and hard drives in cars, consumers will have a virtual plethora of audio options from which to decide, and can in fact opt not to get satellite at all.
Can you blame these companies for trying to control what a consumer does? No, you can't. Whether it is DVD's, satellite, or any other product, a companies goal is to sell their product. The issue used to be in the hands of consumers. It is now shifting to the distribution channels, and it happens in ways that most consumers do not even stop to think about. Ever buy something on line and your only shipping choice is Federal Express? Why is that? Well, the answer is simple. A shipping deal was made between two corporations leaving you the consumer without a choice. If you want a product from that company you have to do business with Federal Express.
I have never been a fan of the exclusive auto deals that have happened in satellite radio. I would much rather see the satellite radio companies compete on what they offer and not where it is offered. Had this happened, it is my opinion that SDARS penetration into the OEM channel would have happened much more quickly, and consumers would have the ability to pick the service that met their programming desires. I had always felt that the GM's and Fords of the world could have signed marketing deals with the SDARS companies. In this way, a consumer buying a GM or Ford could get either service, but perhaps one came with 3 free months while the other didn't. At least this way the consumer can still make a choice.
So how do consumers win? How do consumers influence? It is happening in the form of comments to the FCC. People are expressing their views. People are letting their voices be heard. For once, the majority of comments on an issue such as this are coming from consumers and not corporations. Will the FCC listen? We will soon see.
Position - Long Sirius, XM. No Position OEM's, Picture Studios, DVD makers.