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Let’s Watch a Movie

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

When someone says, “Let’s watch a movie,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Do you immediately think of a group outing to go watch the latest flick? Perhaps your preferred viewing venue is the more cozy environment of your living room couch. Could it be that watching a movie is a solitary experience for you, one you enjoy parked in front of your laptop computer?

Whatever it may be, there are a multitude of options for watching a movie—and a diverse list of business enterprises that support those variations.

Consider the following options for watching a movie:

  • Drive-in Movie Theaters: This is not likely where you would start your list, but, yes, drive-in movie theaters still exist—and there is resurgence of interest. According to drive-ins.com, there are 520 drive-ins operating in the United States today.
  • Single-Screen Theaters: The traditional theater with a solitary screen is also waning in popularity and in numbers, but it is not a thing of the past either. Close to where I live is a one-screen theater that has been making a go of it—and attendance is increasing.
  • Multiplex Theaters: The multiscreen theater is the premier venue for the off-site (that is, away from home) movie-viewing experience. These theaters offer multiple titles and varied viewing times. For major openings, they can show films simultaneously on multiple screens and with staggered starting times.
  • Network TV: This is the least costly option for those willing to wait to watch a particular movie. With an antenna, viewing is essentially free, sans the electricity to operate the TV. If you have cable or satellite, the effective cost goes up, but still there is no incremental per movie charge.
  • Movie Channels: Some movie channels are included as part of a cable/satellite subscriber package, whereas others require a monthly subscription. These are great ways to watch current and classic movies—and everything in between—providing you are willing to scrutinize the programming schedule for desired titles.
  • Pay-per-View: This is generally available on cable/satellite systems, allowing for the viewing of movies (limited to what is offered and when it is showing); there is a charge for each viewing. Essentially this model combines the scheduling and admission elements of a theater with the comfort of home viewing.
  • Video-on-Demand: On-demand is pay-per-view without the schedule. Start a movie at any time, on any day.
  • Local Video Rental Store: Video rental stores function like a library for movies—except that there is a cost for each rental. Most stores are fairly limited in their titles and may stock few copies.
  • Mail Rental: Netflix (90,000 titles) led the way with this option, with Blockbuster (80,000 titles) and others following. This service allows customers to order a movie online and have it mailed to their home, often by the next day. Watch the movie and mail it back—with free mailing. Although advance planning is required, it is less hassle than driving to a video rental—twice—and there are many more titles and copies available.
  • Download Rental and Streaming Video: This is much like the video-on-demand option, but it utilizes the Internet for distribution (think YouTube, with high quality, for movies). Currently Netflix and Movielink (acquired by Blockbuster).

What does all this mean? Plenty—and it can apply to any industry or business.

The movie distribution business is highly fragmented with many competing variations. Each of the options listed has a threatened existence. Some of them are arguably obsolete, requiring innovation and determination to remain viable. Many are feeling competitive pressures that endanger their existence. For those on the leading edge, technological advances could render them obsolete in an incredibly short time.

Let’s revisit the list again, with these issues in mind:

  • Drive-in Movie Theaters: This is an obsolete option. Those that have survived have adjusted their business model and reinvented themselves to make it work. Over 500 have done just that.
  • Single-Screen Theater: This option is one step removed from the drive-in. Those that have stayed open have figured out how to market themselves and fit into a desirable, sustainable niche.
  • Multiplex Theater: The leader among off-site movie viewing, and the conventional business model, the multiplex is facing increased and intense pressure from the remaining options on the list (except for network TV).
  • Network TV: This is the last distribution node to obtain a movie after its release; therefore, it is typically the last option we consider. How would you like to be least preferred option and garnering decreased interest? Enough said.
  • Movie Channels: An option for many, but increasingly viewed as limited in comparison to the next five options.
  • Pay-per-View: You get to see movies closer to their release date then the preceding options, but the titles are quite limited in selection and somewhat restricted by schedule.
  • Video-on-Demand: This solves the scheduling restriction of pay-per-view, but still suffers from limited titles.
  • Local Video Rental Store: Who wants the hassle of going to a video store to rent a movie, especially without knowing if your title will be available? Succinctly put, this model is rapidly approaching obsolesce. This is precisely why Blockbuster ventured into rental via mail.
  • Mail Rental: Netflix changed how we rent movies, but this model will quickly fade. Downloading movies will soon make this option passé.
  • Download Rental and Streaming Video: This remaining option seemingly has no immediate threats, but it is a technology-based solution and technology changes rapidly. As such, a pervasive threat to this business model could erupt at any moment and with little or no warning.

Fragmented Industries

Many industries are likewise fragmented. Some businesses are stuck in the past. These companies, mired in obsolescence, are still in business because they have done what the drive-ins and single-screen theaters have done: somehow they reinvented themselves, found a niche, and marketed effectively.

Then there are organizations that are trapped in their business plan, traveling down a narrowing road. Perhaps their distinctive advantage is their staff, but they can’t hire enough qualified employees. Maybe they have staked their future on an uncertain and questionable strategy. Others are loaded with technology, but the next competitive technological innovation could render all that they have as something that no one wants.

This analysis is not unique to movie distribution. It exists in every business, in every industry, and in every economy. Some will survive and some won’t.

The key is taking what you have and using it to your advantage, perhaps in a way that no one else has thought of. It could be your location, your staff, your technology, your niche, your management team, your leadership, or something else. If you have none of these options, then perhaps it’s time to morph into another line of business, be it within or apart from the industry in which you are currently a part of.

Regardless of your situation, with determination and innovation, there’s always the opportunity to reinvent your business. The one solution that won’t work is to do nothing at all.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher of Article Weekly. In addition to being a publisher and editor, he is an author and blogger with 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for tips and insights.

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Business Articles

We’re on a Mission

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

For years, a reoccurring line from the movie Blues Brothers has puzzled me. I’m not sure if I should be offended or amused with the protagonist’s assertion, “We’re on a mission from God.” The “mission” of this critically disparaged, yet once popular film, might be to simply levy mayhem upon Chicago. However, the epiphany of Jake and Elwood is to “put the band back together.” As mission statements go, this one lacks sophistication. Yet it possesses eloquence and empowers.

When most organizations develop a mission statement, they spend months or even years creating the perfect blend of sentiment, intention, and promise, often presenting it with polished prose. The result is added to the employee handbook, printed on marketing pieces, and hung on a plaque in the lobby. In reality, many of these are not mission statements at all, but often amount to nothing more than thinly disguised marketing.

An effective mission statement has several important characteristics:

  • It needs to be readily understood by those it applies to.
  • It needs to provide direction and guidance in everyday decision making.
  • It needs to be concise, allowing all stakeholders to learn it, follow it, and internalize it.

Unfortunately, most organizations’ mission statements do not fit any of these criteria. The Blues Brothers’ mission does. Each time they share it, everyone understands it; it provides direction, and it is easily learned, followed, and internalized.

Still their mission seems trivial. This is because behind every mission, there is a supporting vision. The vision of the Blues Brothers is to raise money to save the orphanage that raised them and has now fallen on hard times. This vision is why their mission is so important. The mission is not the end, but rather a means to the end: saving the orphanage.

Mission and vision, however, aren’t enough. Just as the mission is supported by a vision, the vision is deployed through goals. The goals of the Blues Brothers are simple: contact former and prospective band members, get them to join the group, hold a benefit concert, and give the money to the orphanage.

Therefore, the Blues Brothers’ business plan looks like this:

Mission: Put the band back together

Vision: Save the orphanage

Goals:

  • Contact musicians
  • Form group
  • Hold concert
  • Give proceeds to orphanage

Now it’s time for some introspection. Does your organization have a mission? A vision? What are your goals? If you don’t have a mission statement, now is the time to develop one. Start today; don’t delay. Make sure your staff is supported by and directed through a practical mission statement; don’t let them flounder. Remember the wise saying, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

If you already have a mission statement, is it the hang-on-the-wall, marketing-ploy type or the succinctly worded axiom that directs daily actions and guides decisions? Maybe your stated purpose is a real mission statement. If so, is it short enough for your staff to learn, follow, and internalize? Is it readily understood? Does it serve as a guide for daily decisions and actions?

The conventional wisdom is that creating a mission and forming a vision is a group activity, something done by a committee, with input and review throughout the organization. This is done to get the buy-in of all stakeholders. Yet the reality is that when a mission is developed this way, it becomes less relevant as turnover occurs. After a few years, the statement becomes increasingly meaningless; then a new committee meets to create a different declaration.

This approach is the wrong. Yes, you do need to have the support of the rank and file for your mission, but its origin must be from leadership. The mission must come from the top. Then it needs to be communicated, not once, not from time-to-time, but frequently and repeatedly. Over time it will be embraced by those it’s intended to support. In due time, it will become understood and internalized. Coming from leadership and supported by management, it will begin to permeate the entire organization, directing actions and guiding decisions. With this as the expected outcome, make your mission statement your top priority; your future may be at stake.

What’s your mission?

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher of Article Weekly. In addition to being a publisher and editor, he is an author and blogger with 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for tips and insights.

Categories
Business Articles

The Future is Now: Learning from Netflix

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Go back with me a few years. Internet-centric companies were the next big thing. It was purported that they would change how business was done, render traditional commerce models obsolete, and usher in a new way of valuating companies—at historically unfathomable and untenable levels.

They were the dotcoms! Their basic premise was insightful, if not somewhat simplistic and naïve. With the pull of the ubiquitous Internet and the support of massive server farms, their business models (that is, their technological infrastructure) would be infinitely scalable, while customer service would be strictly self-service. This would keep costs down and the employee count even lower. Page hits and profitability would be the inescapable conclusion. Unabashed euphoria was everywhere.

The problem was that most people were not ready for and did not embrace self-service via the Internet. Not surprisingly, the dotcom bubble burst. Stock prices plummeted, bankruptcies ensued, and computer hardware was peddled for pennies on the dollar. Most dotcoms dematerialized even quicker than they had materialized. Some companies tried to retool, admirably adhering to the faltering dotcom mantra; it was an effort in futility.

A few insightful innovators listened to their customers and changed their paradigms, wisely supplementing their limited and lacking self-service Websites with full-service human beings. Call centers were built and staff was hired. The clamoring dim of the masses was largely satiated and these adaptable entities survived. Some even thrived, having found the perfect mix of massive computer technology and the personal touch.

But what about Netflix? Born in the dotcom era, Netflix embodies the highly scalable, self-serve model that had failed most. Not only has it succeeded, it has done so exponentially and most effectively. For the uninitiated, Netflix is an Internet-based DVD movie rental service. Members log into the Netflix Website, browse a selection of 70,000 titles, putting requested titles into their personal queue, where they prioritize their preferred delivery order. The first movie generally arrives via mail the next day. There are no due dates, no late fees, and no shipping charges. Once viewed, the DVD is returned via a prepaid self-mailer. Upon receipt, Netflix automatically sends the next movie in queue. Netflix’s 42 regional shipping centers manage 42 million DVDs and ship 1.4 million a day.

Their website includes movie write-ups, reviews, member ratings (1.5 billion of them), and recommendations for titles similar to what has been enjoyed by that member. Interestingly, Netflix customer service is 100% self-serve. [Netflix does have a toll-free number for prospective customers and an email address for media queries—which is how I found out about the toll-free number; I never did find it on their Website.]

With Netflix, there are no call center agents, no email support, and no text chat options. Its Website does have a help section; it is actually helpful. Its list of FAQs are truly questions that one might want to ask (I did); there is also context specific hints, instructions, and explanations. The site is quite intuitive and easy to use.

Given all this, is Netflix an anomaly or an indication of what is to come? Although it is currently atypical, it is also a model on how to effectively and successfully design a Website, support customers, and engage visitors. It is, or at least it should be, a peek into the future.

Although wide-scale defections from full-service options to self-service Websites is not an eminent threat, it is one, nonetheless. Businesses are therefore advised to pursue a two-prong strategy. The short-term—and continuously ongoing—initiative should be to look for ways to differentiate oneself from the competition. Make your company and services stand out; do what others don’t—or can’t; position yourself to be indispensable.

Long-term, be aware that commerce, in general, and customer service, specifically, will migrate to the Web. What can your business do to capitalize on this? The answer may have little to do with the business you currently run, but it will have everything to do with your long-term viability. Fortunately, there is time to consider, study, and plan for these eventualities, but preparation is requisite because this is a threat that won’t go away; ignoring it will be to your peril.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher of Article Weekly. In addition to being a publisher and editor, he is an author and blogger with 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for tips and insights.