Carving Out Another Pay TV Window: Where's The Market -- And The Marketing?

Sixty dollars for a new Hollywood movie on your home TV? Cinemark, National Amusements, and other theater chain owners, you had nothing to worry about.

The fact that Universal wanted to sell the movie "Tower Heist" three weeks after it opened theatrically under a so-called "premium video on demand" window, would have done little to discourage viewers looking to watch it on the big screen.

No matter. After weeks of threatening talks from theater chain executives, Universal pulled the test, which was to run in a few Comcast cable markets. Comcast is the majority owner of Universal Studios.

Theater owners should have looked at the research: Where is the consumer rush here for this movie? Sure, it stars a big cast of well-known male actors, including Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Eddie Murphy, and others. But, c'mon. This is no big glossy "Avatar."

Scores of theatrical movies seem to come and go. Protesting theater owners feel this is a line in the sand; they want to make it an issue.



But in anyone's estimation, the so-called premium VOD window -- one that would give TV viewers the chance of seeing new stuff only a few weeks after it opens in theaters -- doesn't make sense in the real TV time-shifting world, with scores of individual pieces of content already waiting for viewers to see.

Promoters of premium VOD would tell you a  that $60 price tag isn't for the regular consumer, but more  for the higher income ones that can easily afford such perhaps-not-crucial viewing entertainment. Theater owners, these are not your bread-and-butter customers.

Mind you, there's a strong likelihood this won't bring much more to studios either. How is the studio going to tell the consumer that this is not just a movie -- but a "premium home VOD movie"? 

Where was the marketing effort for this? Print ads in upscale magazines like Vanity Fair? I don't think so.  Carving out a new pay TV window is movie studio’s ultimate goal, especially with the collapse of the regular rental and sell-through DVD home entertainment window.

Movie studios don't spend all that much more when it comes to marketing of DVD releases, instead counting on theatrical marketing, some three months before. Premium VOD will gain more from theatrical marketing. But odds are it won't be enough.

The nearest to this experiment in TV entertainment is perhaps the $40 to $50 charged for pay-per-view wrestling events or boxing matches. But at least those are -- in theory -- exclusive entertainment you can't get anywhere else.

One more thing: That big price tag of $60 for a VOD would have helped traditional theater owners this way: It would have shown what a relative steal a $12 or $13 price tag is for the usual swill movie producers are coming up with.

1 comment about "Carving Out Another Pay TV Window: Where's The Market -- And The Marketing?".
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  1. Dan Shannon from ID Communications, October 13, 2011 at 5:41 p.m.

    Wayne I agree the appeal of a new VOD window for studios, makes perfect sense in the light of collapsing rental/retail windows. If it worked, I too doubt it would have hurt the BO numbers, and could in fact help, in the form groups of young viewers chipping in for a home viewfest, the critical 18-24 demo loving a film, and this pushing the word of mouth. If this window where seen as a glorified marketing stunt, this kind of marketing could have bigger multiples across the life of a property. The opportunity lost to see if there are in fact dollars left on the table could have justified new business models, Theatre owners should get an ad window on those broadcasts instead of shunning the experiment.
    I am in documentary distribution and am experimenting with new windows on DVD/VOD online at with the niche films we represent. There are plenty of combinations we haven't tried yet...
    Dan Shannon

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