Last week’s announcement of the “Movies Anywhere” app, by Disney and four of the five other major studios, is a welcome collaboration in the digital space among competitors from traditional media. But is it really only an exercise in closing the barn door after the horse has already bolted?
Consumers already voted with a yawn or confusion to Ultraviolet (launched in 2011) and Disney Movies Anywhere (2014), if they were even aware of them. For example, in a report I did for former employer GfK in Spring 2016, only four percent of digital movie buyers report ever using Ultraviolet.
In many ways, this is similar to what’s been seen in the past in the pay TV world. In that case, the implementation and marketing of video-on-demand (VOD) and TV Everywhere, potential game changers in that market, were not well executed. The former contributed to the rapid rise to dominance of Netflix’ streaming service, and the latter to the rise of the new entrants in the SVOD space.
VOD was not well understood by consumers, particularly suffering from a lack of consistency in marketing exacerbated by every cable operator giving VOD its own branding. Despite being first in market with arguably better content, VOD stalled because people did not understand it and it had a challenging consumer interface. In many ways, TV Everywhere via pay TV operators suffered the same fate: conflicting branding and lack of consumer education, particularly about authentication. In this case, CTAM did bring together cable operators in 2014 to use a single logo and language, but still these services seem to have only recently improved their competitive position.
The moral of the story is that pay TV had perhaps the best combined solution (VOD for current content plus TV Everywhere for older and catalog content), but the inability to bring these to market in a way consumers could easily use and understand put them permanently behind the streaming competition.
For the Movies Anywhere service, a similar fate may be in store. Coming up with a better solution six years after the launch of Ultraviolet only means that consumers now have the SVOD or PPV models of movie viewing as permanently engrained habits. Will Movies Anywhere better serve the shrinking niche market of movie buyers? Sure. But will it stem the overwhelming movement from the ownership model of video content to the rental/subscription model? Unlikely.
David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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