Something old, something new

Or to put it into the context of today’s headlines, the weather and market prices of modern media. The weather will always be the fallback subject for small talk, and if it isn’t global warming, then it’s freezing for some reason.

Of course things have gotten strange when cold winters are a big story in Norway. It has been ‘unusually’ cold this winter, as in: as cold as it used to be. And now meteorologists are threatening us with a prolonged cold snap that can last the entire first month of 2010, and give this winter a chance of setting a record for lower than usual temperatures.

Southern Norway may see the mercury dip as low as -40C, though this is likely only to occur in typically frigid valleys, and places like Oslo can be content with lows of -20C, which wouldn’t have raised eyebrows here a generation ago.

The lowest temperature I can remember experiencing myself is -35C (in Hamar), and it is distinctly different from the pedestrian -20. The difference is between feeling the hairs in your nose crisp up and freeze at first breath, and a piercing pain that shoots through your entire skull when you first inhale. If it hits -40, I’m definitely going out to have a hit or two of fresh air, but no more.

Few things will get modern man arguing more quickly than the economics of digital entertainment media – the dynamic brew evolving from the ingredients of piracy, free content, intellectual copy protection, and ham-fisted industry attempts to exert total control over media products.

While there was much noise in the twitterverse about U2 front man Bono’s plea to hunt down and prosecute content sharers like the good old Chinese chase dissident netsurfers, a Norwegian story about media industry tactics disturbed me at least as much.

Financial web site E24.no carried a version of an interview in trade magazine Release, where Svein Risberg, the head of DVD sales for SF Norway, the leading distributor of film sales and rentals in the country, admitted that they have destroyed 650,000 DVD films in the past two years to keep prices artificially high.

“We could have earned some millions but (these DVDs) would be taking shop space that would prevent us from selling good titles like Ice Age, the last Godfather or Teletubbies,” Risberg said. Really? It makes me wonder if this story isn’t several years old, not that it would make much difference.

Risberg said burning the DVDs was better than ruining the market by selling the films cheaply. According to Release, SF Norway is not at all alone in this practice.

“It happens relatively often, we have done this to many classics, feature length animation and regular feature films. We scrap films rather than sell them for a price under the boundary we set. The long-term consequence of short-term gain is not the way we work,” said Gustav Wedel Jarlsberg, sales chief of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but this is yet another factor in the complex equation of trying to find a way to determine the economics of the rapidly changing world of digital entertainment.

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