After changing the face of music industry downloads are now invading the movie rental territory
A constant dropping of CD sales are a clear-cut evidence of how downloading has changed the music industry once and for all. Now the question raising is – Will the same thing happen with the movie- and TV-rental business? Being able to rent movies or TV shows just by clicking a bit is getting more and more popular with last month’s initiative by Apple.
Having the sound of its highly successful iTunes music store still pending, Apple announced its new initiative directed toward downloadable movie rentals ($3.99 for new releases and $2.99 for older ones) to video iPods or iPhones. It seems that the major movie studios will join the prospect, proposing to consumers quite a diversity of choice through the easy-to-use iTunes interface. Competition wasted no time to reply – Mail-order DVD rental service Netflix responded with a counteroffer proposing to its subscribers at the $8.99-a-month unlimited streaming movies and TV series, and for the cheapest packet ($4.99 a month) subscribers are given two hours of free streams.
Currently, Netflix provides about 6,000 titles for streaming and its declared intention is to exceed that figure in the following months. According to an Adams Media Research study this business looks forward to a bright future as consumers apparently will spend $4.1 billion annualy by 2011 on movie and TV downloads. Even cable channel HBO has changed market strategy offering movies and series as downloads in Green Bay and Milwaukee, and intends to extend this service in the whole country. Another cable network, Starz surfaced the market with its download service Vongo last year, allowing its subscribers, for a $9.99 fee per month, to download movies and concerts, together with a live streaming channel of Starz programming.
At present online retailer Amazon also tries to fit into this business with the Unbox video downloads. You can watch TV shows and movie downloads on TV or have them available to your compatible portable devices, such as Plays for Sure media players. Despite the growth of movie and TV downloads, they’re not alone in this race as cable and satellite on-demand services put forward a choice of movies having no extra hardware or download time needed – and quite often, without extra charging . For instance, Comcast brought another offer to its subscribers this week – namely, a larger library of video on demand, containing some new movie releases available the same day they are available on DVD, and TV series premieres just a week before they are aired. This entire video vault will be offered on Comcast’s Fancast online site. According to Post-GazetteNow, Movielink (purchased in August by Blockbuster) and CinemaNow, the actual veterans in the legal download business, say they are happy with new competition coming from iTunes. As Randy Hargrove, spokesman for Blockbuster/Movielink puts it, Apple’s entrance in the download rental business will determine consumers to faster acknowledge, understand and accept the idea of renting movies using download. Seeing the high potential on the market, download services are searching for means to dress up more eye-catching and accessible to the movie rental customers. CinemaNow, for example, recently disclosed an affiliation with Macrovision, which will enable downloads on Macrovision-enabled digital TVs and set-top boxes. At the same time, Blockbuster , plans a strategic move itself with Movielink, in an attempt to join two distinct features: a consistent presence given by its chain stores, with the ease of being able to download movies at home. "Our mission is to be the brand known for giving consumers convenient access". Hargrove revealed that the company’s objectives aim at increasing its movie rental business and employ innovative technologies. One of the challenges for the company is the proper way to incorporate the Movielink service into Blockbuster site.
The bottom line is consumers may well be overwhelmed by the high number of alternatives. Michael Muchmore, lead software analyst for PC Magazine, had been selecting from the huge bulk different companies and offers. This way we learn that "Netflix has a jump start on Blockbuster, with online movie rentals already included free with subscriptions," he says. "Apple is a relative latecomer but brings easy integration with video-capable iPods and with Apple TV, which will make the jump from the PC to the TV simpler. The same expert tells us that CinemaNow provides a large library and plenty of options, as for example a player-compatible DVD burning and personal media player support – features which are don’t find in Blockbuster’s Movielink offer. Besides the time required downloading a full-length movie and video quality concerns, many of these services present a number of limitations and constraints that can cause at least confusion. Below we offer two such examples for you to judge: • Make sure the service is compatible with all systems. Some, as for example the Netflix streaming movies, work exclusively with Windows systems or with more recent versions of Windows. With some you can burn a copy to DVD for purchases. Others are just streaming. • Time limitation issue. With iTunes and Amazon, one benefits of 30 days to begin watching the movie, and 24 hours since it started to full-watch it. Furthermore, there were iPod owners very displeased to find out that the downloads only worked on the video-enabled iPods that hit the market last September.
Though the number of those using these services is on the rise, one could not call it a mainstream custom yet. "It’s a lot easier now than it was a year or two ago," CinemaNow’s Marvis says. "But it’s still not as easy as it needs to be to really penetrate the mass-market consumer population. That’s a lot of what we’re working on right now — trying to create a usability for our site and service so that anyone can sit down and figure out how to use it." As Marvis outlines, the digital delivery industry has not yet become of age. He draws a parallel between what’s taking place currently and the arrival of cable and video in the early ’80s, when people faced moving from only three main networks to a large range of channels, plus, the days they would have to wait some years for movies to be broadcast on TV were over because of the rental offers that emerged.