While the move to eradicate DRM from music is obviously a good thing, could the opposite be true for movies?
Embracing the good ship Digital Rights Management this week is BT which has announced a plan to trial 'free' movie downloads supported by targeted advertisements.
It works as follows: three (obscure?) flicks will be offered initially: 'Mischief Night', 'Played' and 'The Punk Rock Movie'. Before a user can download them they must first download free video software from Hiro Media (it'll deliver the ads) and agree to submit anonymous demographic information.
At this point the movies themselves become available for download for a period of one month. Breaks are then inserted 'at appropriate places in the films' for the ads to be shown - the RAC, Norwich Union and the Territorial Army listed amongst the advertisers.
In effect we have movies as if they were on ITV...
Antony Carbonari, BT Vision's interactive and commercial media director, said: "This will be a fascinating trial: the concept of targeted TV advertisements is now a reality through the combined technology behind BT Vision Download Store and Hiro's software. We believe that sympathetically-placed, targeted advertising, combined with a viral film-sharing capability, will be attractive to many customers in conjunction with free or reduced content prices. We look forward to the results."
Convinced? No, me neither. Ads working as bookends to a movie - sure, but it seems something of a regressive step to return the on-demand PC based viewing experience to that of the already-free broadcast channels. Furthermore, since the system delivers ads when online, if you choose to watch the films offline you'll get the same ad repeated all the way through...
Is ad-supported free content the future? Possibly, but probably not in this form.
Update: I'm going to cut this idea a little more slack after some of the (considerable) blanks in BT's press release were filled in. Just three 30 second ads will runn during the course of an entire film and no bookends - a far more appealing prospect. I still remain unconvinced BT is giving this format a real go, based on its movie selections, but word is we'll be hearing a lot more about Hiro Media in 2008...