Open letter to the global media industry: embrace the Plastic Internet and give us $3 movies on DVD

Image from: China Expat

To the global film, media, gaming and software industry:

Your products are being distributed by the millions of copies and you’re not making any money in the process. I am talking about the container-loads of pirated DVDs that you can find in Amman, and any other city in the developing world.

I just came back from a walk in Downtown Amman and was shocked at the number of shops selling pirated copies of every movie, game and software package under the sun. What I called the Plastic Internet in a pervious post is not just alive and kicking, it’s in full bloom.

And while the customers of those downtown shops are filling up big plastic bags with the latest movies ( at US$ 1.5 a pop), outlets like Virgin megastore or Prime megastore are probably hardly making any business at all with DVD and software. Who in Jordan can pay JD 20 for an original DVD or JD 50 for a PlayStation title.

Digital culture is spreading in the developing world. People want the entertainment but cannot afford the prices of originals. The result is a vast market for pirated media and software products. Sure, these are sometimes bad copies, but there even is a liberal return policy at these shops (and discounts on quantities too) to deal with that.

So here is my advice to the executives of the global media industry: introduce a US$ 3-5 pricing model for the developing world. If the pirate shops can make a profit on $1.5 copies burned on DVD-R’s, surely you can make a profit on mass produced $3-5 DVD. Forget fancy packaging. Forget all the ‘extras’ for all I care. Just understand that you will not be able to kill piracy with laws or crackdowns. The internet is full of your content already and every PC has a DVD burner these days.

A cheap DVD pricing model for the developing world would be good for all. Consumers will get a guaranteed product. Media companies will sell a lot of products.

I would even advocate embracing some of the pirate shops as distributers. Apparently they operate effectively and cheaply. They know how to reach the mainstream of customers.

You just can’t expect to gain developing world customers when you charge them western prices.

Good luck..

19 Responses to “Open letter to the global media industry: embrace the Plastic Internet and give us $3 movies on DVD”

  1. abed Says:

    Well i think the problem is not only in developing countries but all over the world but in other forms, for example here in Italy, but i know also other people in France and Germany doing the same, at least 50% of the people have high speed adsl (4 Mbps at least but even 20 is available at cheap prices), and they use a lot of peer to peer programs like emule, shareaza and other similiars to download movies and games. And nobody consider this an “illegal” thing because it’s seen like a revolution against the “system” of great industries and this stuff. I think there is no way to stop it, they closed napster and now we have emule, when they will close emule we will have a new one…Maybe when a game will be at 5 $ people will think about it!

  2. Lina Says:

    Spot on Ahmad! One interesting example is that when word was flying around town about Axis of Evil performing here, DVD stores downtown responded immediately with a pirated copy of the comedy tour, this one complete with the extras. Sometimes I feel those DVD stores downtown are in a way bridging the East-West divide in Amman – some of the ‘fafiest’ people I know have discovered downtown because of the DVDs :)

  3. Dave Says:

    Sounds like a sound strategy. At least they’ll be making something rather than nothing.

  4. ArabianMonkey Says:

    It’s the lazy, lethargic, uncreative distributors and AV marketers are who have been slow on the uptake. Why does a DVD cost JD20+? Because of packaging, printing, marketing, promo, distribution, etc mark ups. That’s all. Get creative. Cut out all the useless traditional mind sets and a new cheap solution for all is very doable – for the entire world, not just developing. It’s about the evolution of how people want to consume audiovisual/entertainment media, the ease technology offers and how much is willing to be spent.

    I’ve been talking to the dudes downtown for a while on them becoming part of my distribution network for the films I’m working on actually. It’s very possible, and an extremely interesting process by the way – a whole new distribution model is in the making! I love it.

    I often give my favorite downtown store film festival catalogs to get the lists of the new indie films and source them. The dudes are great, creative, efficient and an absolute pleasure to have around!

    But locally our system is very flawed as they are constantly being fined and get their products confiscated, subjected to customs, etc coz technically they are pirates. I’ve blogged this in the past – a subject extremely interesting and intriguing for me actually.

    It’s got a lot to do with common sense and accepting that everything changes in a world ruled by the consumer, ultimately.

  5. Moey Says:

    Amen ahmad Amen

  6. Khawaja M. Says:

    Maybe your creative initiative does require big players in the media industry to take such a decision (as a group).

    Because it will not work out if just a few of them followed your advice… it may affect their positioning in the market and people may consider them lower in quality!

  7. Fares Says:

    I really think you should put up more Ads to your blog, I mean, 4 google ads blocks, 10 Text-Link-Ads links, 1 Text-Link-Ads referral button, and the Amazon Ads, are just not enough, you need MORE ads on your page! I mean, A millionair like you really needs to squeeze every penny he can from his blog. there’s still room for plenty of ads on your blog.. More ads, MORE!

  8. Humeid Says:

    Hey Fares. You’re probably the same guy who advised me to buy the iPhone at a high price cause I am a millionaire.

    With the rising cost of living my friend, even billionaires have to squeeze out the last penny from their blogs.

    Actually, the Amazon ads never brought me any money. I need to replace them with something that does.

    Thanks for reminding me. And keep visiting so that I can me more money..

    [Insert millionaire laugh here]

  9. Humeid Says:


    Distributing your own stuff via the downtown DVD store is a brilliant idea!

  10. ArabianMonkey Says:

    I know! AND….. for any teasers, trailers, etc for upcoming stuff – the dudes are willing to put on other DVD titles they carry…

    [insert pirate laugh here]

  11. Moey Says:


    [moey laugh here]

  12. ArabianMonkey Says:

    Oh, and Creative Commons licensing rocks!!

    [insert open-everything laugh here]

  13. Ashraf Says:

    Well as long as u dont own Liongate or Timeline or a Virgin store why dont u just mind ur own business and think how u can make money instead of wasting ur time thinking for other companies how to make their money!
    and iam so sure that they can take care of themselves and know how to make money way better than you….
    Dude scream your lungs out all you want no one is listening…
    Dont forget Bill Gates doesnt read ur blog neither the manager of Sony Entertainment.

  14. Humeid Says:

    Bill Gates doesn’t read my blog. I will just break down and cry!

  15. ArabianMonkey Says:

    What?? Bill Gates doesnt read this blog!! WTF?! What the hell have I been doing wasting my time hanging out here!

    Now what?!

  16. Humeid Says:


    I am a total wreck. I am considering closing the blog now and pay all the readers a compensation (from my millionaire bank account, of course :-) because I wasted their time..

    [breaking down in tears, again]

  17. ArabianMonkey Says:

    yeah… i can imagine you’re a wreck! whatever will we do?!

    on putting the blog to rest: sawfa tuqbal al ta3azi fi al blog al janoubi min al shabakai!

    And PS: dont forget the bonus when you pay out.. it’s the end of the year!

    [gone shopping for black clothes, in tears]

  18. Ammar Ibrahim Says:

    Some of the comments here are extremely irritating. Isn’t a person allowed to voice his opinion on his PERSONAL blog without being labeled by others?

    And are we supposed to shut up and not think? Since when do we agree with big monopolistic companies, and we’re not even allowed to to send an advice?

  19. Will April 1st 2008 be doomsday for Jordan’s JD 1 DVD paradise? - 360east | design, media, technology Says:

    [...] Only a small minority of Jordanians can dish out 20 JDs or more for an original DVD at Prime or Virgin Megastore. The global studios would be better off offering cheap versions of their films in poorer countries. The reality today is that a DVD costs more in Jordan than the US or Europe because of the damn custom duties. I think this is absurd. [...]

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