Online Move DuJour: AOL Teams With Miramax For Movies

With the NewFronts  just days away, it’s interesting to see so many new online content strategies and plans beginning to develop. Some of it reminds of an old reporter friend of mine who used to silently berated the brain surgeons who ran the paper I worked for then, grumbling that their new plan, what ever it was, was the latest installment of their "let's try this for awhile strategy."  

Still, some things are sticking.

Among the latest new wrinkles is the deal between AOL and Miramax , in which AOL’s On Network will feature films from the mostly distinguished Miramax library, including  titles like “Pulp Fiction,” “The English Patient,” “Chicago” and “Good Will Hunting.”  It’s not hard to have seen those films many times before on HBO and elsewhere, but the hook here is that they’ll be free on AOL, except for commercials.

Which sounds exactly like the way movies are shown on commercial TV. But, one assumes, AOL’s commercial load won’t be like television’s habit of interrupting every 15 minutes.  One hopes. And the arrangement says something about what is happening to content online.  In a nutshell, longer form video is now having its day.



“There’s a tendency to look at digital companies as doing only shortform video,” AOL’s President of Content Ran Harnevo told Variety’s Todd Spangler .“Our viewers are getting more open to us offering longer-form content, and we want to offer a full breadth of content.  Curating good film experiences looks like a natural path.”

AOL is discovering that as more viewers find OTT devices, they’re watching for longer periods of time; AOL On is on 14 such devices, ranging from Roku players to several smart TV sets. So the idea of longer views is not such a strange concept.

In addition to Peter Chernin and AT&T cooking up content,  HBO and Amazon have hooked up to provide a window for Amazon Prime subscribers and Dish TV is working on its own separate video service to debut this summer that would cherry-pick programming from NBC, Turner, CBS and A&E and is aimed at cord-cutters, says Bloomberg News.

I’m naturally suspicious of everything Dish and DirecTV cook up—maybe irrationally so—but it seems possible that Dish is creating an alternative viewing platform for people who, first of all, don’t want the totally immersive content experience.  

The movement in just about every direction—even the Supreme Court, where Aereo may have shot its last arrow—suggests great churn in the content business, but, of course, with many of the same actors.

Online video is one disruptive force that is doing a lot of its disrupting by just blending in. It’s a takeover more than a take-down, so that already, there’s a lot of talk that seems to confer status to online that it may not truly deserve quite yet. But you see where it’s coming from.

The IAB’s blog asked some online creative types if—just if—online video was experiencing its golden age. It a query that seems almost plausible given the state of the art just a couple years ago, but ridiculous considering how many truly sustainable/remarkable/monetizeable pieces of content have been created.  

Best of all, I liked the response from Eric McPherson, chief content officer for Maker Studios, who said, “ I don’t think we’re there yet. We’re in the early age of video. We’re in the Jurassic stage of video. We haven’t even seen it yet. This is the beginning of massive, massive tidal wave.”

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