Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon and other VOD services have a new competitor. Comcast has announced that it’s launching its own VOD platform, Xfinity Streampix. The service will be in addition to Xfinity OnDemand and XfinityTV.com, but it seems like the major difference is that Streampix will have more movies and offer complete TV series. Comcast has partnered with NBC Universal (which they own, so no surprise there), Disney-ABC, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., and Cookie Jar, and all of the content will be available starting this week. Among the TV shows offered are Lost, 30 Rock, and The Office, while the OnDemand movies include Brokeback Mountain, When Harry Met Sally, and The Big Lebowski. The service will come bundled with some Comcast packages (like Triple-Play) and will cost $4.99 with others. Comcast is also planning to bring Streampix to Xbox 360 and Android devices.
Hit the jump for the full press release. I guess competition makes the marketplace better, but Comcast doesn’t have the best reputation as a service provided. Also, can someone explain to me how Comcast’s ownership of NBC-Universal isn’t a monopoly? Don’t they own production, distribution, and exhibition? Lawyers, sound off in the comments section.
Like any studio, Universal has had a tough time with movies they expected to be hits. The Fast and Furious series is one of their killer franchises and they landed a sleeper hit with Bridesmaids, but the studio had to suck up bombs like Land of the Lost, The Wolfman, Robin Hood, Cowboys & Aliens, and even the geek-beloved Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Ron Meyer, Universal’s President and COO for the past sixteen years, spoke about the studio’s flops at the Savannah Film Festival. He also talked about 3D, avoiding prestige pictures, and their controversial move to try and rush Tower Heist onto VOD.
Hit the jump for When Studio Execs Speak Honestly.
Last week, we reported that Universal Pictures had made the controversial decision to release Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist on Video on Demand only three weeks after the film had hit theaters. The test case would only be implemented for Comcast digital subscribers in Atlanta and Portland, Oregon, but theater owners finally drew a line in the sand against the studios’ continuing encroachment into the theatrical exhibition business. Major theater chain Cinemark threatened to ban the movie from its theaters and smaller theater chains refused to screen the innocuous-but-most-likely-lucrative comedy. In response, Universal has relented and “continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive and we look forward to working with our partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future.”
Or to read it another way, “You’ve won this round theatres but we’ll be baaaaaaack!” (and then Universal’s hot air balloon flies away). Tower Heist opens in theaters on November 4th.
Just yesterday, Universal Pictures announced it would be releasing Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist to premium VOD subscribers a mere three weeks after the movie opens in theaters on November 4th. In direct response to this announcement, Cinemark (the nation’s third largest theater chain) has threatened to ban the movie from all 300 of its locations. This is a bold move that our own Matt Goldberg agreed with in principle, but didn’t expect to happen. As Matt mentioned, Tower Heist could potentially be a very successful film as it “has the stars, a sound comic premise, and it covers multiple demographics.” Will Cinemark really risk the tens of millions of dollars it stands to lose by taking a stand? Or will Universal Pictures blink first rather than risk losing the revenue?
Hit the jump for more info.
In what is the most audacious VOD plan to date, Universal Pictures will release Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist on VOD three weeks after the movie opens in theaters on November 4th. However, the rental will cost a hefty $59.99. This VOD plan marks the biggest move yet in the recent battles between studios and theaters over when movies should go to VOD. This past spring, Warner Bros., Sony, Universal, and 20th Century Fox launched Home Premiere, a premium VOD service that offers movies for home viewing only two months after their theatrical debut. While these VOD rentals aren’t cheap (it costs $30 to rent a movie on Home Premiere), studios have been looking for new revenue streams since the collapse of the DVD market, and they believe (correctly) that the high price of tickets and concessions coupled with the poorly-run theater experience could drive consumers to premium VOD.
Hit the jump for more.
Chris Nolan and Jon Favreau add their voices to April’s open letter appeal by The National Association of Theater Owners protesting to DirecTV’s new Premium VOD service, Home Premiere. Home Premiere is a video-on-demand service backed by four major studios, Fox, Universal, Warner Bros., and Sony, which provides audiences with the opportunity to rent a new film two months after release, for the price of $29.95. According to THR, the Batman Begins and Iron Man directors are two of the latest signatories to oppose the service among a group of high profile talent including Quentin Tarantino, M. Night Shyamalan and David Dobkin, plus screenwriter Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker) and former president of Warner Home Video, Jim Cardwell.
Hit the jump for more on this controversy.
On April 26th, we learned that YouTube was “imminently” launching a VOD service. A little less than two weeks later, that service is going live. Starting later today, YouTube will be releasing approximately 3,000 new titles from Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, and Lionsgate. Some of the films available for rental include Goodfellas, Scarface, Caddyshack, Inception, and The King’s Speech. New release will cost $3.99 to rent and library titles will cost $2.99. For most movies, viewers will have 30 days to watch their rentals and then 24 hours to finish the movie once they begin watching. Most movies will be available for rent in standard definition only.
Hit the jump for the full press release and FAQ. Click here later today to check out the new rental releases.
As a courtesy to one of our newest advertisers, IndiePix, we took a look at their new website IndiePix Unlimited. IndiePix is a subscription-based VOD site that offers independent movies. And when I say “independent” movies, I mean it in the truest sense of the word. You won’t find Hollywood stars slumming it for awards in these movies. I’m for anything that gets independent movies out to as many viewers as possible provided artists are fairly compensated for their work.
I watched a few of the films and the picture quality was solid and the movies ran at a solid framerate on my hardwired Internet connection. As far as navigating the website, it’s not a bad interface, but it could use some improvements since it’s difficult to know where to start when you haven’t heard of any of the movies. While the site does offer a “Feature Picks” section, there needs to be some stronger guidance to get viewers into the groove of finding movies they might like. Most importantly, at some point in the not-too-distant future, the site needs to connect with hardware such as Roku to get the movies away from the computer and onto your TV because personally, I’d rather watch movies on my couch than at my desk. Ultimately, the site has a lot of potential and I’m interested to see how it grows. Click here to check it out. IndiePix Unlimited is currently in beta testing.
*This article is a sponsored post by IndieClick.
Early last month, Facebook got into the VOD game by having Warner Bros. offer movies for rental on the popular social networking site. Now another online heavyweight is getting into the VOD game. TheWrap reports that YouTube “will imminently launch a movie-on-demand service charging users to stream mainstream Hollywood movies.”
YouTube has been renting movies over the past year, but never any films from the major story. The company has been fighting to get those studios on board, but Fox, Paramount, and Disney have all declined (which means Warner Bros, Sony, and Universal have signed on). It’s worth noting that Paramount and Disney have also opted out of the Premium VOD service Home Premiere over piracy concerns. TheWrap believes YouTube will launch the service as early as this week or next. Hit the jump for more on this story.
Theater owners are none-too-pleased about the decision from Warner Bros., Sony, 20th Century Fox, and Universal to launch a premium VOD service this month. Exhibitors believe that the service, which will rent movies for thirty dollars 60 days after the film has hit theaters, will significantly cut into theater revenues. Earlier this month, we learned that Regal Cinemas was making the convincing threat to cut trailers and pull posters for the four studios’ big summer movies. It was a proportional response designed to let the studios know that the theaters were finally going to fight back–not in anyway that actually benefits the average moviegoer–but in a way that would let the studios know that theaters weren’t going to take this potential revenue cut lying down.
And now that believable threat has been followed by an unbelievable threat: not showing the blockbuster movies of the studios involved in the premium VOD service. Hit the jump for more. [Updated with a comment from NATO and a denial to the claim that it has instructed theaters not to show movies]
Next month, Warner Bros., Sony, Universal, and 20th Century Fox are set to launch “Home Premiere”, a premium VOD service that will offer movies for home viewing only two months after their theatrical debut. Variety reports that movies on the service will cost up to $30 for a two-to-three day viewing period and the service will launch exclusively on DirecTV. Certain cable companies will introduce Home Premiere to certain cities for an undisclosed period of time around the end of April.
Warner Bros. plans to launch with Unknown while Sony’s first premium VOD title will be Just Go With It. However, plans could change closer to launch. Studios also don’t plan to release films to the Home Premiere service if they’re still doing well in theaters. Hit the jump for my thoughts on this new service.
Today, Amazon officially announced that Amazon Prime members would now get unlimited, commercial-free streaming of over 5,000 movies and TV shows (presumably “over 90,000″ if you break down shows into individual episodes). This new feature is in addition to the free 2-day shipping Prime members enjoy for $79 per year. Streaming is available via PC, Mac, and various Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players, and set-top boxes (e.g. Roku). Amazon is offering a one-month free trial of Prime and after getting free 2-day shipping and tons of movies streamed to your various entertainment devices, you’re likely to shell out the $80 for a year-long subscription.
While Netflix has remained dominant in the video-streaming arena, it’s facing increasing competition. Last week we learned that Hulu Plus had stolen away The Criterion Collection and Amazon is clearly going to be a serious heavyweight. The challenge for Hulu and Amazon, however, is not only expanding their library of streaming titles, but also making their service available on as many devices as possible.
Warner Bros. is taking a bold move by announcing that they’ll release their films through a premium video-on-demand (VOD) service only 60 days after the movie first hits theaters. The typical release window is 90 days although studios have been experimenting to see just how quickly they can turn the film out of theaters and into consumer’s homes. Time Warner head Jeff Bewkes tells Variety that Warner Bros. will launch their premium VOD service sometime in the second quarter of 2011. Bewkes didn’t provide any more details on the service. However, he did say that the company was re-evaluating its 28-day release window on making its movies available to Netflix and Redbox. It’s possible that Warner Bros. may increase the fees it charges those companies. Bewkes also didn’t say if this VOD service would support the studio’s 3D movies to 3DTVs.
So how much would you pay to see a movie on-demand only two months after it had hit theaters? Does it depend on the movie? Sound off in the comments section.
How much is the window closing between a film’s theatrical release and home-entertainment release and how much are consumers willing to pay to close it? That’s the question Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., and Disney are currently trying to figure out. Bloomberg reports [via THR] that the studios are in talks with cable operators to offer new-ish release films for as much as $30 after their theatrical release but before their home-video release. While that seems awfully steep, keep in mind that a family of four would spend an average of $40 total to go to the theater to see a movie.
Hit the jump for more on this current trend of studios cutting down the theatrical release window.