That’s really not the point of this post. I’d long abandoned movie theatres before 2020 went off the rails. At most maybe a matinee a year, but for a less popular title, and mostly just as an excuse to enjoy a large and quiet air conditioned room with a 64 ounces of soda and a giant tub of butter and salt drenched popcorn. Diet for the soda as it’s just a caffeine delivery vehicle to stop the heart from seizing from the salt and butter. The sugar isn’t needed as well. Regardless of that there’s an appeal to movie theatres and the whole experience of going to the movies. It’s an event. Bigger than life and shared. Especially for children. Crowded with people that let you know when you should laugh, and how you should feel about it. A shared experience. Full of coughing and talking, and people shouting back at the scream. Which is why I prefer to watch them at home.
In that sense, as a non-theatre goer, who wants content when it’s fresh and new, the notion of PVOD has been one of the brighter points of 2020. For those who don’t know PVOD, premium-video-on-demand, is essentially just a new acronym to say TVOD, transactional-video-on-demand, but with an earlier release window and with specific rights rules for viewing. Accessible for only 7 days for example, but then only for 48 hours once playback has begun.
There’s been some research data put out to support consumer interest in some form of PVOD. For example Hub Entertainment Research finds PVOD young consumers, with more than 60% of survey respondents (18-34 years old) indicating they would probably pay to stream a just-released movie.That interest is nearly non-existent among older consumers (35+), with just 12% indicating interest and only 2% saying they would “definitely” pay for PVOD.
Notably, price doesn’t appear to be an issue for young consumers when it comes to streaming a first-run film in the home. Assuming a price of $15 to stream, 67% of 18- to 34-year-olds would definitely or probably pay. The proportion is virtually the same (65%) at $25. Amazingly, a majority of young viewers (57%) would also be willing to pay $50. 1
The early, big story of this model came in April when “Trolls: World Tour” went straight to PVOD. 2 Driven mostly by the fact that theaters were closed and families were at home with few places to go. While other spring and early summer titles remained shelved; like the new Bond movie for example which is due out later this fall. Trolls, taking advantage of the model and timing, proved a viable revenue generator for Universal Pictures with the PVOD model.
Following along more titles would follow suit, like “Scoob” and others. Amazon quickly reworked their home screen with sections labeled “In-Theatre Movies At Home, Prime Video Cinema”. Vudu did the same. And while some of the titles that now appear there in an earlier release window, at a cost from $19.99 to $24.99 would likely have just gone “straight to DVD” to use an older saying (like the “King of Staten Island” or “Bloodshot” in my opinion), the fact they cost more sure did make them seem appealing. Continuing this trend in September Disney is putting one of their summer tentpoles straight to PVOD in “Mulan” 3 in parallel to its theatrical release. Mulan is a big play for the PVOD model, with a budget north of $200 million. It’s further complicated that’ll be an exclusive release just for Disney + subscribers, with it’s $29.99 rental fee on top of the users existing subscription.
It’s not obvious this trend will last, even if consumers like myself and others want it, as there’s structural business challenges in the rights windows between the theatre owners and associations like AMC or NATO (North American Theatre Organization) and the content owners and producers about the rules of distribution. There’s a lot of power built into how this works.
So ultimately this is about both market demand and the agreements in place between powerful lobbies and entities. There’s been progress in this area as going forward, AMC Theaters will play Universal and Focus Features films and the studio has the right to provide the titles on Premium VOD as early as after three weekends of theatrical play. 4
There will be some debate to the roll of theatres going forward. They’d no doubt, in a more normal world, like to maintain the early rights windows to high end releases. That’s a long proven model and maintains the viability of the entire theatre industry. Regardless, movie theatres will need to better differentiate themselves as a destination experience. Better screen, better seats, better heart attack food and booze. More interactivity and experiences for kids as well. There’s no reason they can’t squarely compete with at home PVOD releases if they make the experience worthwhile as a destination. Meanwhile the PVOD experiment continue with previously planned summer hits like “Bill & Ted Face the Music” which rolls out on PVOD Aug . 28th, 2020. Which in full disclosure I rented immediately on Aug. 28th, 2020 on Amazon. 5
Going forward there will be many tests to determine what the consumer appetite for PVOD titles will be. The new Spongebob, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” will skip it’s theatrical release before windowing on digital rental services before landing on CBS All Access in 2021.6 Content like Paramount’s “Lovebirds,” Universal/Blumhouse’s “Run Sweetheart Run” and Sony’s “Greyhound” have also found alternate paths to the consumer and away from their planned theatrical releases.
From our perspective, whatever is decided, we have the underlying engine to help broadcasters and streaming services get this content to the consumer. Through Vimond Monetization we’ve long had the ability to manage TVOD and have used it for a decade for live pay-per-view streaming events like boxing, formula 1, and hockey.
So while PVOD is new to the consumer consciousness, and requires more finite control of the playback window it is fundamentally an extension of our existing monetization capabilities.
If you want to learn more, click here to read about Vimond Monetization.