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Six Questions: Ted Hong, M-Go's Chief Marketing Officer

11 Feb, 2013 By: Chris Tribbey

Ted Hong

It’s not often you find a digital video service suggesting consumers buy elsewhere. Welcome to M-Go.

Currently in consumer beta trials, the joint venture between DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor is a transactional, pay-as-you-go VOD service, with every major studio (other than Disney) on board for day-and-date digital distribution of new-release and catalog movie and TV content, for both rental and electronic sellthrough … and if M-Go doesn’t have what consumers want, the application will point them to Amazon, iTunes, Netflix and Vudu.

M-Go works with Android, iOS and Windows platforms, and is pre-loaded on Samsung, Vizio, LG, RCA and Intel devices. The fledgling service boasts a unique user interface, a promise of 10,000-plus videos at public launch and 24-hour live customer service.

Ted Hong, chief marketing officer for M-Go, took the time to chat with Home Media Magazine about the advantages of transactional versus subscription video, the need for digital locker services such as UltraViolet, and the potential for delivering more than movies and TV with the platform.

• What sets M-Go apart from other content-based services?

Hong: We’re the most people-friendly digital entertainment service. That’s how we position ourselves. We think that more people should be on digital, and they’re not. Whether it’s connecting to the TV, finding out what’s available, the pricing, searching, delays. We wanted to streamline all of those pieces for consumers to speed up this transition from physical to digital. If we don’t have something, we’ll point you to where you can find it, searching other services across the Web. Whether it’s iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, Netflix, we’ll tell you where it’s available.

We look at a lot of other digital stores and find their user interfaces a bit lacking, cluttered. It’s row after row of box art without clear rhyme or reason. We believe we’ve solved that. It’s simple to use, clean, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about that from consumers. We think of ourselves as a service, not a store. We speak human.

• What are the advantages of the transactional versus the subscription model?

Hong: We’re big believers in the transactional model, versus subscription. Every subscription service can be found lacking in the amount and type of content, and especially freshness of content. Studios are not interested in re-creating the Netflix offering from three years ago — $8, all you can eat. That model ended up hurting the content creators, in that the consumer started to devalue content. It started to eat into theatrical sales, started to eat into physical DVD sales, and even started to eat into physical rental. The studios undervalued those deals early on, but when they come up for renewal, you see the costs going up tremendously.

The studios are adjusting to the marketplace accordingly, and the only way for subscription services to compete is to have exclusivity of deals. And even then they usually have to contend with the pay-TV window. With a transactional service like ours, we’re day-and-date with DVD, typically three to four months after theatrical. We’re still beating every subscription service by six months. With a transactional model, it’s pay for what you watch.

For rental versus electronic sellthrough, consumers will vote with their wallet, and we’re certainly supportive of both. A large majority of the market is rental, and of that probably 70% to 80% is new-release. On our page, the rent and buy buttons are right next to each other. Consumers will choose.

• M-Go wants to be available on every device possible. What are the biggest obstacles to reaching that goal?

Hong: There’s a reason there aren’t very many start-ups in this space. It’s hard to get content deals. It’s hard to get the consumer electronics partnerships. It’s hard to ingest and encode all the content. We’re rolling out being available on all these devices. Every ecosystem is a little bit different, with different technologies and DRMs, and we got into this eyes wide open, and we’re still puzzling through this. But the consumer doesn’t care. They just want it to be easy and work. We do the work so they don’t have to. We’re ecosystem and device agnostic. We’ll play on iOS and Android, and we’re preloaded with Samsung, Vizio, LG, across their HDTVs, Blu-ray Disc players and smart tablets. Studios are happy to work with us because we’re a neutral brand.

• M-Go has content agreements with most major studios, along with Starz, but not Disney. How much emphasis is M-Go placing on adding that studio, Lionsgate and other content owners, and can you share how many titles we can expect out of the beta launch?

Hong: Hang tight on that. The handicap I would put on that is very high. Short order, hopefully. We’re at 6,500 titles now, and we should be at 10,000 by the end of the quarter.

• M-Go has also announced its service will serve as an UltraViolet retailer when it launches out of beta. Why was it important for M-Go titles to be UltraViolet-enabled, and can you detail how M-Go and UltraViolet will work together?

Hong: We’re supporters of UltraViolet because we’re supporters of the studios, and we’re big fans of high-quality, long-form content. UltraViolet serves consumers and gives them a sense of security when purchasing a piece of content, as they have had with physical. Consumers had a lot of issues with music early on, where they would buy all their music on a service that would go out of business or sell off to another company, and all their rights were gone. The studios were smart in trying to alleviate that with UltraViolet. We will potentially have our own digital locker and disc-to-digital options. We’ll support multiple digital lockers.

• Beyond regular movies and TV, what other content (3D video, 4K, music, gaming) can the M-Go platform offer to consumers?

Hong: Once we get live here in the next couple months — and we’ll be available to about 65% of the connected HDTV market — we will really think of ourselves as a platform. We’re going to be in a lot of people’s homes, and there are a lot of ways that we can go with this. I don’t think we’re ready to announce anything else strategically right now, but certainly we’re looking at other things than being the best digital entertainment service where you can buy and rent movies and TV. We certainly have some bigger aspirations.

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