Blockbuster brags about its windows. But will they help it survive?

Posted in Blu-ray, DVD, Netflix, Redbox, rentals, VOD, Warner by Diane on March 23, 2010

Armed with an updated (presumably) revenue-share agreement with Warner Bros., Blockbuster is squaring off against Netflix and Redbox.

The ailing chain is touting today’s availability of “The Blind Side” at Blockbuster stores, by mail or on demand. Netflix and Redbox, which recently agreed to a 28-day rental window in exchange for improved terms, does not yet have access to the movie, which notched an Oscar win for Sandra Bullock earlier this month.

The question: How much will this new window help the chain, and rental stores in general, compete against popular Netflix and Redbox? Blockbuster is making a big deal out of the fact that it’s the only “multi-channel provider” with access to big movies on street date. But is it really that great a selling point with consumers?

Studios would prefer consumers buy their movies on disc or via download. Barring that, they would prefer consumer rent  movies on demand or at a Blockbuster; the economics are better that way. (Netflix operates on a subscription-based model; Redbox’s bargain pricing is considered a threat to sales, VOD and revenue-sharing rental chains like Blockbuster.)

As for digital: The release carefully notes that existing deals remain in place. The updated deal only applies to DVD and Blu-ray.

So no, bloggers, the studios aren’t really giving Blockbuster scandalously preferential treatment. They’re just agreeing to continue supplying the ailing chain with discs at a time its future looks shaky.

UPDATE: LATimes reports that the new revenue-sharing arrangement improved terms for both parties.

Blockbuster release (via paidContent)


When Joey confronted Paula: Future of Film Summit

Posted in indie film, movies, recession, studios, Warner by Diane on December 9, 2009

Ralphie, as we knew and loved him.

“Hi Paula. It’s Joey.”

Only then did I realize that the flamboyantly-dressed gent across the room was Joe Pantoliano aka Joey Pants aka Ralphie Cifaretto from “The Sopranos.” Thesp commandeered the microphone at Variety’s Future of Film Summit to quiz keynote speaker Paula Wagner, she the former partner with Tom Cruise and head of UA. Why, Joey wanted to know, were studios asking him to take 80% to 90% pay cuts without offering him a piece of the action? Specifically, why did Warner Bros. ask him, a working class actor, to take an 85% cut? After all, he said, Fox gave him a piece of “Daredevil.”

Wagner, a one-time actress who made her bones as an agent and now toils as an indie producer, had no easy answer for Joey Pants. Later in the day, however, QED founder Bill Block, another former agent, stressed the need to give talent a “a fair shake with a real transparent back end,” adding, “We need to find our way to a better model that rewards today’s box office performance.”

Throughout the day, panelists stressed the need for filmmakers to trim costs in line with the realities of today’s movie economics. But studio execs, Pantoliano pointed out, have not been willing to do the same. Hence, the hard feelings.

“At what point do we not need studios anymore and when do they start taking that cut?” he implored.

Again, no easy answer.

Oren Peli…

Very interesting: Majors talking VOD with YouTube

Posted in DVD, Lionsgate, Netflix, paidContent, Redbox, Sony, VOD, Warner, WSJ, YouTube by Diane on September 2, 2009

The WSJ is reporting, and paidContent confirms, that several studios are in talks with YouTube to stream movie rentals — aka Internet VOD — via the video sharing giant. This is interesting on a number of levels:

1. For starters, it’s a reminder how much studios prefer VOD to traditional disc rentals. The reason is simple: they get a cut from each transaction. According to the WSJ, studios would likely get a guaranteed minimum fee of just under $3 per title viewed. (The transaction fee is expected to mirror Apple’s iTunes rental fee of $3.99 on latest hits.)

2. It’s another way for studios to compete against Redbox. It’s killing studios that Redbox is making a bundle on $1 rental transactions while DVD sales slump. Consumers are clearly eager to rent, not always buy, movies. YouTube would join services such as Apple’s iTunes and Amazon.

3.  The movies themselves would be available according to VOD windows, which vary by studio and sometimes by popularity of title. Warners, for example, is wont to collapse that window to boost VOD. The studio has been a strong proponent of VOD for some time; for a long time it had a vested interest in Time Warner cable; that division was spun off earlier this year.



We’re fine with clips only, YT says. Oh really?

Posted in digital media, Gossip Girl, TV, Warner, YouTube by Diane on August 20, 2009

gossipgirlBlame it on my head cold if you like, but last night I misread news about YouTube’s deal with Warners to include full-length episodes of “Gossip Girl,” and was simultaneously impressed and pleased. Impressed because the CW has been so stingy with online streaming of “GG” and pleased because, well, I’m ridiculously fond of the show. Heck, maybe I just wanted it to be so.

Further reading today dashed those hopes, alas. But what really got me was YouTube’s insistence that it’s just fine with clips of Warner TV shows or news programs for now. Jordan Hoffner, YouTube’s affable dealmaker, told the NYT that the vid-sharing site is very happy the conglom is starting small, er, short, noting that is, after all, YouTube’s core business. “The important thing is to get them on the platform,” he said.

However, it’s not clear to me how useful those clips tend to be. Sure, they work as promotional devices — and they don’t cannibalize TV on DVD sales or iTunes downloads. This is why studios willing give the Google-owned site access to them. But the site has been beefing up longform video to entice advertisers, who tend to prefer Hulu.

I examined this conundrum a while back for Variety, in a story on Hulu’s rapid rise, and another on Google’s Hollywood charm offensive.

Photo: the CW


Redbox did indeed file suit against Warner

Posted in DVD, Netflix, Redbox, rentals, Warner by Diane on August 20, 2009

redboxRedbox made it three for three yesterday, filing suit against Warners as expected. The suit, which comes on the heels of a legal victory for the kiosk company in its antitrust battle against Universal, is similar to the ones filed against that studio and Fox, Video Business reports.

All three have taken a hard line stance against Redbox, in contrast to Sony and Lionsgate, who did deals with the company. Disney and Paramount also sell their product to the Coinstar-operated company, which has exploded in popularity the past year.

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Now we know: WB insisting on 28-day kiosk window

Posted in DVD, Netflix, Redbox, rentals, Warner by Diane on August 13, 2009

redboxTurns out we were right to read into Jeff Bewkes’ Redbox comments late last month: Today Warners said it would begin selling kiosk companies directly in October, but only 28 days after each movie’s DVD release.

Netflix will be offered movies upon general release or with a 28-day window, depending on the terms rental-by-mail subscription companies choose, Video Business reports. It’s not clear how these terms will differ from current Netflix terms. The sub company buys discs from at least some studios under revenue-sharing terms.

During Time Warner’s earnings call late last month, Bewkes signaled a change was in the wind, suggesting that dollar rentals probably should not be available the same time as higher-priced rentals at traditional video stores.

So, to update the scorecard: Three studios are withholding movies from Redbox during the prime rental window, and three are working with the kiosk company in some fashion. Sony and Lionsgate have recently inked guaranteed distribution deals with Redbox, while Disney has indicated it is selling kiosk companies discs through a third party. The proviso under all these deals is that kiosk companies not sell used discs.

Universal is trying to impose a 45 day window, Fox 30 days and Warner 28. Paramount is supposedly negotiating with Redbox; they might be the next studio to choose sides.

Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes endorsed studio withholding tactics in its earnings call, VB reports, even though the chain is rolling out kiosks of its own. Still not clear: The status of Paramount’s Redbox negotiations.

Not nearly as pleased: Chuck Berger, head of kiosk company DVDPlay, who told Home Media mag that studios are standing in the way of a “tsunami of technology.”

Deadline Hollywood Daily has posted the press release here.

Earlier: Lionsgate confirms Redbox deal; studio divide over kiosk company very real, Yeah, Redbox is suing Fox, Studios are trying to withhold movies from Redbox. Is this wise?

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