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Piling On Is Key to Selling Downloads

11 Oct, 2012 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The digital distribution ecosystem reminds me a lot of the home video industry in its early days.

There’s a growing chorus of distribution outlets clamoring for content, and the studios are scrambling to make some sense of it all.

The studios are also in the same boat they were in back in 1978: They want consumers to buy their content, but the distribution outlets are mostly interested in streaming, the digital descendent of physical videocassette rental.

So far, at least, no one’s figured out how to make consumers excited about buying the way they were when DVD first arrived on the scene back in 1997.

A digital download just isn’t as appealing as a shiny disc in a pretty package, particularly when you take into account the importance of the gift market and the impulse buyer.

So the perplexing question everyone in Hollywood is asking these days is, how do we turn streamers into downloaders?

Let me throw in my two cents. For starters, observers — and I’ve been guilty of this myself — are fond of saying that with DVD, we turned a nation of movie renters into a nation of movie collectors. That’s not quite true. Consumers began buying DVDs in large numbers because of the novelty — movies had never hit home video at a low purchase price, right out of the gate — and because of the convenience. There were no late fees, no return trips to the video store.

There’s no instilled habit in the American consumer to collect movies. It’s a habit born of convenience, pure and simple. So what we as an industry have to do is come up with an equally compelling value proposition for the consumer, and in this regard all sorts of ideas have been bandied about: added value, instant anywhere/anytime access, permanent secure storage (the cloud), interactivity, and so on.

And yet we still haven’t gotten there. If I had the magic answer — a solution as simple, as easy to understand, as “convenience” — I’d be hailed as the hero of Hollywood. No one else has the answer, either, which is why EST, for “electronic sellthrough,” remains essentially a nonstarter.

But what if there isn’t one magic answer? What if it’s all those things we’re already talked about, already implemented — just more? Throw in an app so the download you bought, and which now lives in the cloud, can be accessed instantly on your smartphone, at the exact point you left off last night before you nodded off in front of the TV? Throw in constantly updated special features, like an interactive cast chat on the film’s anniversary or a Facebook game centered around watching the movie with a bunch of your friends — live, and on Facebook?

Think of it as a seven-layer dip. It’s a tasty concoction you’ll find at most every football party, but it took seven layers – not three or four, not five or six — to get there.

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About the Author: Thomas K. Arnold

Thomas K. Arnold

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