You might have read news coverage this week that the motion picture studios and cable companies are joining forces to “launch a $30 million marketing and promotion campaign touting the virtues of movies on demand” (See Multichannel News:” “Studios, Operators Team To Promote Movies On Demand“).
The three month, multi-media campaign titled “The Video Store Just Moved In” will shine a spotlight on the burgeoning movie on demand category, according to operator and studio executives. The campaign… will focus on the fun and ease of ordering and watching top theatrical movies at home as compared to trudging out to rent movies from the local home video store, according to campaign officials.
Developed in association with CTAM, operators participating in the campaign include Armstrong, Bend Broadband, Bright House Networks, iO TV, Comcast, Cox, Insight and Time Warner Cable. Studio partners include 20th Century Fox, Focus Features, Lionsgate, Rogue, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Summit Entertainment, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros Entertainment, Inc.
In an odd bit of timing, I was reading Edward Jay Epstein’s 2005 book The Big Picture, which looks at the modern film business and how it got to where it is. The section on Steve Ross, who built Time Warner, had some relevant background.
To Ross, cable was much more than an alternative to broadcast television. For one thing, since there was room on cable for hundreds of different channels, it offered the potential for creating cable networks that segregated audiences by their particular interests for advertisers…
Another major application of cable, in Ross’s view, was as a means of delivering Warner Bros.’ movies into homes. When he had first been briefed by Warner Bros. executives about the plan to sell his company’s films to independent video stores… he shook his head in disbelief… He asked: “Can we really expect millions of busy people to get in their car, drive to a store, pick out a movie, stand in line, fill out a rental agreement, pay a deposit, drive home, play it on their VCR, and then, the next day, repeat the procedure in reverse to return it?” …he saw video rentals as a stopgap measure.
Ross saw the cable system he was assembling piece by piece as a far more efficient way of delivering films into homes on demand… Unlike over-the-air (including satellite) broadcasting, cable wiring could be used to send as well as receive signals. it could allow viewers, while watching programming on one channel, to signal back on another channel by clicking on their remote controls.
Of course, home video rental did become a big business, for a time, but that time may have passed. At the VideoNuze blog, Will Richmond noted:
Aside from whatever else can be said about Blockbuster in recent years – vast over-expansion, poor financial management, slowness to respond to new competitors like Netflix and Redbox – the company’s potential bankruptcy is surely one of the most vivid reminders of how much the movie rental industry has changed in the last 10 years and how much it is yet to change in the next 10 years. Blockbuster will likely be remembered as a temporary player that drove wider movie access in the analog era, but then got crushed as rentals shifted in the digital era.
It’s a reminder that cable technology, originally built just to retransmit broadcast signals to consumers, has moved way beyond that.
Tags: Video On Demand