Insights from home entertainment industry experts. Home Media blogs give you the inside scoop on entertainment news, DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases, and the happenings at key studios and entertainment retailers. “TK's Take” analyzes and comments on home entertainment news and trends, “Agent DVD Insider” talks fanboy entertainment, “IndieFile” delivers independent film news, “Steph Sums It Up” offers pithy opinions on the state of the industry, and “Mike’s Picks” offers bite-sized recommendations of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases.
This last weekend I went to the movies for the first time in a while to see director Christopher Nolan’s Inception, a Warner Bros. sci-fi juggernaut that topped the box office for the weekend and created a lot of buzz despite being shown in good old 2D.
After the movie, ushers handed out questionnaires ostensibly from the studio asking viewers how they liked the movie, among other things.
At the end of the survey was the following question: How interested would you be in buying or renting Inception on DVD or Blu-ray Disc or ordering it on demand? Answers ranged from “Definitely” to “Definitely not,” on a scale of 1-5.
If industry participants don’t think the studios are seriously reevaluating the home entertainment market, then this survey should give them ample proof. Of the three choices, buying or renting on disc or ordering via on demand, the studios have definite favorites based on the amount of revenue coming back to them. Buying the disc or on demand pay-per-view would be the most profitable consumer actions to the studios. Renting the disc is not.
I’m not sure exactly for what purpose the studio will use this data. Were I conducting the survey, I might gauge the purchase intent for each movie and window each movie to create the maximum revenue for the studio. If consumers aren’t particularly interested in purchasing a film, I might offer it first via VOD and then on disc. If they show a strong interest in purchasing a movie, I would offer it before or at the same time as it appears on VOD.
I have no doubt studios are looking at every aspect of the home entertainment business to maximize their revenue — and consumers answering surveys like this are going to point the way.
By: Stephanie Prange
Video-on-demand platform Sundance Selects has acquired the newly remastered Colin Fitz Lives! for distribution to more than 40 million homes Aug. 4. The acquisition includes previously unshown footage as well as newly discovered Colin Fitz musical recordings.
Directed by Robert Bella, the musical black comedy, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997, deals with rock star mythos and postmodern love as two eccentric men guard the grave of a dead rock star. The film features William H. Macy, Martha Plimpton, Matt McGrath, John C. McGinley and Mary McCormack.
Cable operators that carry Sundance Selects include Time Warner, Comcast, Cox and Cablevision. The remastered cut will premiere July 15 in San Francisco at the closing night of the 2010 LOL-SF Film Festival and will be shown by the American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre in Los Angeles August 5.
“I am delighted that Colin Fitz Lives! is finally having a proper nationwide release, and that both fans and new audiences have an opportunity to discover the film in this newly remastered version,” Bella said. “I hope audiences across the country have as much fun watching it as we did making it. This movie is dedicated to all those who helped, to all those who dream and to all those who know that now and forever — Colin Fitz Lives!”
The film has never been released on DVD, and there’s no word yet on a DVD/Blu-ray release of the remastered cut.
In other film festivalesque news, the 14th Annual L.A. Shorts Fest is coming up. It runs July 22-30 in Hollywood, Calif., at the Laemmle Sunset 5 Hollywood. The festival boasts 33 Academy Award nominations from participants from various years, with 11 of those filmmakers winning the Oscar for best short film. Tickets went on sale yesterday, grab them at www.LAshortsFest.com.
By: Billy Gil
I recently heard a report that, while liquor sales are doing well during this recession (as they always do), consumers are increasingly opting for the lower-priced booze. Instead of Grey Goose vodka, they are buying Popov. Instead of Gentleman Jack, they are opting for Black Velvet whiskey.
The same thing seems to be happening in the video industry. Wal-Mart used to be the low-price leader on packaged home media, offering the best value with DVDs priced close to the $4 it would take to rent it at the local Blockbuster. But as the recession has cut into consumers’ budgets, increasingly kiosks such as Redbox, with its $1 rentals, and Netflix, with its unlimited streaming plus disc rentals for $9 a month, are looking good by comparison.
Cable VOD, with prices around $4, also is struggling. Both Time Warner Cable and Comcast, the top cable operators in the country, each reported quarterly declines of about 200,000 subscribers for premium channels, including VOD.
“I have to imagine that the continued proliferation of Redbox kiosks and Netflix offerings is drawing consumers looking for cheaper alternatives that are just about as convenient as VOD,” Eric Wold, director of equity research with Merriman Curhan Ford in New York, told Home Media Magazine. He commented on a survey from research firm Light Reading that said 30% of respondents had switched providers due to video service price issues.
While analysts may wax poetic about Netflix’s technological advantage, I contend one of the primary drivers behind its growth during this recession is price for the amount of service. I know people who have dropped cable altogether in favor of Netflix. Subscribers have access to a slew of TV shows and older movies, as well as the traditional by-mail rental of the latest hits for a price that is much less than the typical cable bill.
As for Redbox and other kiosks, no retailer I know of can beat a $1 rental. That’s likely one of the reasons Wal-Mart is refusing to sell a buyer more than five copies of new releases (a move obviously aimed at Redbox, which has kiosks in its store) and has kicked out rent-sell-buy kiosk company e-Play. The low-price leader doesn’t like the lower-priced competition. I wouldn’t be surprised if the retail goliath gets into the kiosk business itself. That would make them a low-priced leader in the rental business as well.
Redbox and Netflix may have innovative business models, but it’s really price that is growing their businesses. To quote a political maxim, it’s the economy, stupid.
By: Stephanie Prange
Back in 1993 cable video-on-demand seemed poised to kill the video rental store. During the Bell Atlantic-Tele-Communications Inc. merger that year, Bell chief Raymond Smith declared that video stores would be “no longer viable” in five years. Well, 1998 rolled around and video stores were still alive and kicking. Even today, more than 16 years later, the habit of renting a physical good hasn’t gone away, though it occurs increasingly by mail or through a kiosk.
And what of cable VOD?
Well, it’s certainly picked up, boosted by the gift of day-and-date releases with disc. Total VOD growth was 63% in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to the year before, and up 20% in the previous three quarters, according to data from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. Combined spending on VOD and electronic sellthrough was up 32% to $2.1 billion in 2009, according to DEG.
Cable VOD is certainly a growing part of the business, but companies such as Redbox, Netflix and Blockbuster create the lion’s share of rental transactions, increasingly through the Internet.
Cost may be one of cable’s drawbacks. It’s certainly more per rental than Redbox and Netflix. But what it offers in convenience one would think would overcome that downside.
Another problem I think is image. Recently, we had a recurring problem with channels on our system not showing up. The technicians were very nice the several times they came to our house to “fix” the problem (it finally fixed itself). Still, with nowhere else to turn but satellite and our bundled phone and Internet with the cable company, we felt powerless. Many years ago, I remember ordering a pay-per-view showing from my cable company that never showed up. These experiences color consumers view of their cable company.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate my cable company. In fact I think they do a pretty good job, and I enjoy our cable service. But because we already pay our cable company $90 a month (about $1,000 a year), spending $4 or $5 more per rental on top of that bill makes it a real shocker, especially in this economy. I probably wouldn’t remember paying $4 to rent a flick at Blockbuster. That monthly cable bill, too, may be a drawback.
The technology has gotten better, but it also could be improved. A TV remote isn’t exactly my favorite way to navigate. In fact, to make that easier, Cablevision last year launched an interactive tool that allows its iQ TV subscribers via the remote control to more easily find on-demand movies and TV programming. Pressing the “C” button on the remote control allows customers to use a virtual keypad to enter in search terms and quickly find programming based on a show's title, genre, performers, network or other attributes.
And then there’s the competing channel of the Internet. Cable companies are trying to ameliorate the Internet effect with initiatives such as TV Everywhere, under which consumers who subscribe to cable can get the same content on the Internet. Those moves seem to be going in the right direction, and if cable customers who rent a VOD movie could stream it again via the Internet in a certain window, that might make the service more desirable as well.
Ultimately, it’s kind of a mystery to me why cable VOD hasn’t been a bigger player. I guess many consumers unconsciously understand and value something they can hold in their hands and like perusing the aisles, looking at their Netflix queue or visiting the kiosk at the local grocery store. It may all come down to a matter of habit — but habits do change.
By: Stephanie Prange