Last week at E3, both Microsoft and Sony made announcements related to video. Microsoft announced a partnership with Netflix to make streaming video available on the Xbox 360. Microsoft also announced an expansion of the console's video download service to include films and television shows from NBC, Universal and MGM.
Sony, at a press conference the next day, announced the launch of video downloads on the PlayStation 3. With wide studio support, not unlike Microsoft's, Sony had leveled that playing field. Sony differentiated its service with video rentals and the ability to port the videos to your PlayStation Portable.
Also last week, Amazon announced a video-on-demand service. While only a beta with invited customers, the service features streaming videos from many of the Hollywood studios. It also features compatibility with mobile media devices. With 1 million iPhone 3Gs out there, chances are more media is being consumed on the go than ever before.
Video is everywhere — and at your fingertips. With studios putting episodes of TV shows on websites the day after they air, with DVR cable boxes becoming the norm, with video game consoles that are focusing on HD content, the public now has incredible access. With the larger public now following Hollywood closer than ever, with strikes, with leaked pics from films, director announcements, weekly box office numbers, or rumors of trailer releases, is this really a surprise?
But what does it really mean? Is it escapism? Is it a greater attention to art? Is it a matter of being dazzled by the shiny prettiness of high definition everything? I think it is all of these. And it is also the fact that people need to pay attention to something else sometimes. They can only do so much thinking about work, politics, or the economy. People crave an escape or a distraction, a need to focus on the craft of visual art or the mélange of story. Video technology is enabling greater consumption of creative works — and that can't be a bad thing.