IT doesn’t take a psychic to foresee major film studios delivering content on-line, and moving away from traditional DVD and broadcast delivery mechanisms in the next few years. To that end Fox Interactive Media and Twentieth Century Fox recently announced a multi-year deal that may just lay down a blueprint for others to follow. Come next month, download-to-own versions of Fox’s major film releases and TV shows will be available day-and-date with the DVD.
While the digital files are not transferable to blank DVDs, the service marks an industry first. The downloads are compatible with Windows Media technology, making them playable on portable devices including Microsoft’s forthcoming Zune portable player that’s gunning for some of iPod’s market share.
Fox heralds the move as an evolution of the industry and a major blow against piracy. But looking at it through the lens of kids films and programming, you have to wonder if it spells the beginning of the end for the still lucrative kids DVD market – not to mention the boost in merch and promo opps realized around kids event-DVD releases in recent years.
Jamie McCabe, senior VP of worldwide pay-per-view and video on demand for Twentieth Century Fox, does not see the need to close a door because a new window is opening.
‘I think right now they are separate markets,’ McCabe says. ‘The DVD market is a huge market for us and we have to be respectful with what we do. Our experience has been that download is more of a male 18 to 34 oriented market.’
McCabe points to the technological difficulty of charging parents with hooking up their PCs to televisions to create an acceptable viewing environment for children as being an obstacle to the new delivery system prevailing in the kidspace. ‘The family doesn’t gather around the PC to watch kids programming,’ he says. (Canuck broadcaster Corus is willing to wager parents won’t have a problem with downloading and burning content on to DVDs, as it launches online video service Treehouse Direct this month. See ‘Broadband or Bust’, p. 103.)
‘However, don’t expect Fox to withhold its kids titles in an effort to protect the DVD market. McCabe says the company will make all content available through the new system and let the market sort out what should be promoted and featured.
‘I don’t know that Because of Winn Dixie is going to be the most popular title on our site,’ he says. ‘But if you went there and you wanted to get something different, it would be available to you.’
The program will initially launch on the Fox’s IGN portal (ign.com) under the Direct2Drive section, but eventually will roll out across Fox’s other internet assets including Myspace.com. Movies should ring in at US$20 a pop, while TV eps will cost US$1.99 apiece.
He wouldn’t divulge specific targets, but McCabe is hoping the new partnership will expand the download-to-own market and possibly sprout new formats.
‘Maybe what we can do is take advantage of the fact that we are delivering (the movie) to a computer,’ he says. ‘If you think of the processing power of a PC compared to a DVD player, there are some exciting things that could be done.’