by Dade Hayes
March 30, 2017
The long-discussed idea to shrink the window between movies’ theatrical and video-on-demand premieres finally seems poised to become a reality in 2017. And while much of the buzz around the shift has centered on the century-old movie business, cable operators could reap significant benefits as well.
VOD revenues had off years in 2014 and 2015, but in 2016 the picture was rosier, according to the Digital Entertainment Group, an industry consortium. The DEG’s annual report, released in January, showed digital gains of more than 5% for VOD and electronic sell-through (EST). Physical disc sales continue to plummet, but the appetite for movies is a key reason for overall digital gains of 15%, per the DEG, including streaming services. Digital sales totaled $10.3 billion, dwarfing the $7.5 billion spent on physical discs.
Recent reports of active negotiations among major studios and exhibitors have the attention of cable, satellite and telecom distributors, not to mention major players in movies’ digital lifespan like Apple and Amazon. This week in Las Vegas, Hollywood studio executives, directors and stars gathered for the annual Cinema-Con trade show, where talk of the industry’s likely embrace of “premium video on demand” (PVOD) predominated.
No firm plan exists, but all studios (with the exception of Disney) are in talks for services that could be priced anywhere from $30 to $50 per transaction and offer films on VOD as early as 17 days after their theatrical debut, or as long as 45 days (still half as long as the traditional 90-day window). While Disney’s holdout is noteworthy given that the studio has been the clear winner of the market-share race of late, the sentiment among other participants in talks is a lot more upbeat than last year. That was when Facebook founder Sean Parker’s Screening Room startup floated a similar day-and-date venture and was largely dismissed, especially once A-list filmmakers got wind of it.