It's called tiered marketing and discriminatory pricing. I'm not sure which business school you went to, but the AACSB accredited one I went to described this situation pretty well to the undergrads, and it makes perfect sense - it's just complex. They use it because it works best in squeezing the most profit out of each segment. All media companies use it, to a degree. I recall in college, I'd order my MBA texts from India - "International Editions" that were paperback versions of my classmates' books. They were usually full color paperback versions of the exact same textbooks. I was able to buy them for around $20 (including shipping from India) where the course book in the US was hardback and $125.
With the book analogy, it's a kind of region locking. Yes, if you know how, you can get around it with a bit of time and effort.. even if it's not exactly the same quality. Also, you can just borrow the book from a friend or share as needed... or even use a photocopier for just the excerpts you need. Most people will buy the book, and the one for their region, and that works well enough to not worry about those skirting the system. Like enforcing any system (even the legal/criminal justice system), there's diminishing returns for protecting against cheating it.
Game makers and DVD/ Bluray producers do the same thing with region locking. They don't want you to buy the content for $5 from China when they can get you to pay $30 or $50 here in the states. Media distributors for movies do the same. Their model is set to get cash from theaters first, then pay-per-view and DVDs, then cable movie networks, then Netflix, and then general cable networks with commercial breaks - pretty much in that order. They have all that sliced up by regions, too - mostly because people in different regions are willing to pay different prices for the same things, but also so they can control the length of each phase of distribution for each region independently. It's not easy to untangle because there are so many different companies involved that sell distribution rights to different distribution channels in each region and then reward content-makers as a percentage based upon that distribution. That's before countries get involved with taxes, copyrights, streaming rights, etc. as well. That's not even to mention that some actors get paid a percentage of one distribution channel profits and a different percentage of another distribution channel profits - written into their movie contracts. Other actors get residuals from syndication from TV episodes. It really is licensing "all the way down" as the grandparent post suggests. Netflix follows its licensing agreements, Sony, etc follows the ones it made with producers, directors, actors, etc. Even with Hulu - watch what they do with episodes. Sometimes one episode out of a season will be missing due to licensing - and it'll be because of some obscure part of a contract not allowing the episode to be shown because of a clause for an actor or for the background music.
Netflix would love to have a simpler model. Hulu would, too (well, yes and no b/c they're currently owned by Comcast and others that want to spin it off). Hulu got streaming rights for computers, but didn't think ahead to get the licenses for streaming to any internet device... which is partly why there's Hulu Plus. I don't know about now, but when Hulu Plus first came out, I could watch some things on Hulu on my laptop, others on Hulu Plus on my smart TV, but Hulu Plus wouldn't show all of Hulu's content. I had to switch back and forth between them. Different licenses for different methods of distribution. Negotiating for other methods of distribution after the fact would almost certainly lead to higher charges for content, and then higher pricing for Hulu or Netflix subscribers (unless the subscriber growth was substantial)
Hollywood is a huge industry - and getting them to switch their model is a bit like telling the American public that we should go ahead and switch everything to Metric b/c it's easier and/or better. Literally everything retroactively from Grandma's chocolate chip cookie recipe to the highway signs to your car's driver's manual. The current system is deeply ingrained and will take a massive effort on multiple fronts to change - and that is if you can successfully argue that you've got a better system.
Content is mostly going digital with encryption and individual licensing. I see a future where content providers like Steam, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, etc have individualized licenses for every song, book, movie, tv show episode, and game you play. No one will "own" a copy, so there will be no resale value and you can't give or sell your collection to anyone. Totally locked down, but with ways to temporarily share with other accounts (family/friends). Probably even a side program to scan your library for unlicensed material and report any "cracked" files to authorities based off of digital fingerprints. Amazon and others are already toying with individualized pricing. I imagine future pricing will be set at one point, then "discounts" and "sales" offered for individuals at just the right price points to get them to buy. That's the corporate dream - to sell licenses to individuals directly at exactly the highest price they'd be wiling to buy them without creating too much anger from the public when the people discover they're not all paying the same amount for the same product. People think the price they paid is fair until they discover someone paid a different price... so, sellers take into account region, timing, secondary benefits (oooh, special edition packaging!), etc. I'm sure they'll come up with ways to differentiate it enough for those that care enough. Usually coupons/discounts is the way to go - so some people feel they got a deal and others that paid full price don't feel cheated.
The real question is -- What method of distribution do you propose, and how do you expect it to make the industry more money than the current system? Is that amount worth renegotiating every contract for every actor, musician, writer, director, photographer, etc etc for each and every piece of media as well as breaking all the current long term contracts with the present media distributors? I'm betting not. This will be a slow evolution ending in corporations maximizing their profits, but at the same time, maximizing their distribution to those that want their products through more creative price discrimination. You won't see one price for global distribution ever -- the economics just don't support it. You also won't see all Netflix content available everywhere even at various prices for Netflix subscriptions - because content providers will be negotiating for various amounts per view or percentages per region and won't agree to a deal if they think they can make more money on an alternative distribution channel for a region.
You're not wrong to say that there are inefficiencies in an entrenched system, but it's not fair to say they're dinosaurs holding on to a dying business model either as some suggest. Cable companies now offer free time-shifting with DVRs, some Pay Per View options are available same-day as DVD releases. Hollywood has a lot of work to do in transitioning from a theater, DVD, HBO, and Cable highly segmented model to a more modern Theater + anywhere/anytime/anydevice individualized model, but they'll get there eventually. If Internet companies were classified as Tier 2 utilities, I think it'd happen a lot faster. Cable channels could easily all become streaming channels, Cable Companies simply ISPs... then eventually cable channels themselves could simply become content providers for streaming services like Netflix. I'd rather have a Netflix service with massive, indexed ready-to-play content than a cable company with 1,200 channels of random content spewed constantly with no regard to my preferences or schedule. I say give it another 20 to 30 years.