Rupert Murdoch: Simultaneous Theater-VOD Release ‘a Big Mistake’

Comments came four months after the FCC approved changes to federal rules that studios sought in order to allow quicker release of films

Last Updated: October 7, 2010 @ 10:16 AM

Rupert Murdoch believes it would be "a big mistake" for studios to offer HD versions of their films on TV at the same time those films are in theaters.

“It’s going to tighten up, but I don’t think you are going to see simultaneous release,” News Corp.’s chairman and CEO told TheWrap Wednesday night. “It would be a big mistake.”

Murdoch, who declined to elaborate, made the comments after being honored with an American Horizon Award at the Media Institute’s annual dinner in Washington. The Media Institute promotes freedom of speech, a competitive media and excellence in journalism.

The comments came four months after the Federal Communications Commission approved changes to federal rules that studios sought in order to allow quicker release of films.

The changes — studios can turn off secondary outputs of TVs, thereby limiting the chance that movies can easily be surreptitiously recorded — have led to speculation that the normal release window between theatrical release and the release of the movie for video-on-demand services will soon shrink.

Several studios and cable and satellite companies have confirmed they are negotiating for earlier release of first-run features, a proposal that theater companies and the National Association of Theater Owners have fought. Studios are expected to seek higher charges to see first-run features than for films shown after the films have left theaters.

Murdoch used his speech at the dinner to issue a plea for education reform.

“The failure rates of our public schools represent a tragic waste of human capital that is making America less competitive,” he said. “I believe that upward mobility in America is in jeopardy unless we fix our public schools.”

He said poor schools represent an “almost criminal waste of human potential … The status quo is delusional for our students. It is damning of our schools. And unless we face the problem head on and face it immediately, it will be a disaster for our nation.”

Murdoch also ripped policies that limit parents’ ability to choose the best schools for their children and the opposition of teachers unions to changes.

“Our system is failing our children.  But it works very well for some adults,” he said, referring to the leaders of the teachers unions, politicians "whom the teachers unions reward with their cash and political support" and "the vast education bureaucracies. In business terms, we have a system that rewards the providers and punishes the customers."

"We have zero incentive for adapting new technologies that could help learning inside and outside the classroom – and we have huge disincentives if this new technology means replacing a teacher," he said.

“On top of it all, we have chancellors, superintendants and principals who can’t hire and fire based on performance. We have tougher standards on ‘American Idol.’”

The Media Institute also honored Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO of the cable industry’s National Cable & Telecommunications Association with its Freedom of Speech award.