With ‘The Interview,’ Google Wins Key Test Of Digital Video Distribution

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The unknown forces arrayed against Sony Sony Pictures Entertainment tried to strike back when the company sought alternative distribution for The Interview — the Kim Jong-un assassination comedy — on Christmas Eve.

The “hackers,” who are looking less and less North Korean by the minute, used whatever methods lay at hand, mostly distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on the digital distribution sites — Sony’s own seetheinterview.com, Google Google properties Google Play and YouTube, and Microsoft Microsoft’s Xbox Video — to deny viewers the dubious pleasure of consuming this tasteless flick.

As of this writing, the verdict seems to be that they were partially successful. Sony’s site came under considerable strain, and Microsoft experienced several glitches. Only Google appears to have managed to make the film available for download consistently so far. There are lots of reasons why sites might have trouble with massive downloads, including just plain old overload, but Google seems to have done the best at anticipating both the organic load and any onslaught from malicious hackers.

As of Monday, Dec. 29, all sites seemed to be up and running, including Sony’s PlayStation video store, which had been offline for three days due to DDoS attacks.

On Sunday, Dec. 28, Apple Apple joined the distribution party, turning around an initial bad call. The Cupertino colossus had declined to offer the film along with the opening trio on Christmas Eve, perhaps out of an excess of caution, but this choice gave both Google and Microsoft special bragging rights as the brave two willing to stand up with Sony and accept the consequences of angering a potentially dangerous rogue government.

At this point, it seems safe to say that anybody who wants to watch The Interview now can, whether via a legitimate site, in a small theater, or via pirate services like BitTorrent.

Proceeds to Sony have been modest in the movie’s opening days. And it is unlikely to be a blockbuster. With all the hype around North Korean involvement, President Obama’s weighing in, and legions of hackers sniping from the shadows, the production got about as much unpaid publicity as it could hope for.

But ultimately, the quality of the film will out, and opinion seems to be forming that it’s pretty puerile. The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern called it “sour buffoonery.”

With those caveats, then, have at it — or not.

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