Ari, (brother to Rahm, inspiration for Entourage‘s Ari Gold,) is considered one of Hollywood’s most powerful people. On stage, interviewed by tech journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, Emanuel held forth on the fraught relationship between north California (Silicon Valley) and south California (Hollywood).
As Emanuel tells it, Hollywood’s piracy woes are Silicon Valley’s fault. Google, in particular, is to blame. They could fix the Internet to prevent piracy, he says, but they choose not to. Sooner or later they will realize that the Internet is just a “big pipe,” and that folks want “premium content” through that pipe, not videos of “cats on couches.” When Google catches up to Emanuel and realizes this, they will cut a deal with Hollywood that will see them filtering the entire Internet in order to block access to piracy. And by the way, kids, “stealing is wrong.”
It’s disheartening to learn that 2012 Hollywood is stubbornly determined to repeat the mistakes of the 1998 music industry. When challenged by the ragged hordes of tech journalists during the Q&A, Emanuel reveals the arrogant bully of his repute. He is the dashing jock, they are the puny nerds, and his big money bluster is slicker and louder than all of their reason and math. How, he asks, do they expect Hollywood to keep making blockbusters like The Transformers and $3 million dollar an episode TV shows unless it keeps propping up the existing “tiered-release” model of theater-to-DVD-to cable-to-Internet? Why should Hollywood accept a measly $4 billion a year by giving people what they want, when they want it, on the device of their choice, when it’s currently making $10 billion a year by forcing us into unwanted pay TV bundles and then making us wait months before letting us buy a DRM-crippled self-destructing file?
As one of the nerds points out, this decision will ultimately be made for Ari Emanuel and his ilk. Piracy isn’t Google’s fault, it’s the predictable outcome of Hollywood arrogance. If people can’t download the entertainment they want legitimately, they’ll find another way. The ratio of paid downloads to pirated content will depend largely on how quickly Hollywood wises up and meets market demand.
If they wait too long, the day of the blockbuster may indeed be done. On the plus side, the day of the ass mogul may pass, too.