Thursday, August 9, 2007

Movie Download Business Won't Be That Easy

Until now, most consumers have been reluctant to purchase movie downloads. There are lots of reasons. It is a new behavior, and learning to do things in a different way takes time. There's little compelling reason to change current behaviors, either. Whatever else one might say, the ability to rent or buy movie material is not a pressing problem.

So Web downloads of the same material consumers easily can get is not a winning proposition for most people: it simply doesn't solve a big enough problem, or save enough time or money. Not when DVD retail, Netflix, Blockbuster rental channels, IPTV and video on demand are so easy to use, both absolutely and comparatively.

And so far, it would be hard to argue that paid movie content delivered over a Web connection for viewing on a standard TV actually saves either money or time.

Download-to-burn services offer a way to get around these limitations and might prove more appealing to consumers, says The Diffusion Group. But not for a while. The number of titles available for D2B services is extremely limited, and that won't be an easy problem to fix.

Not for any technical reason, but because movie content owners are acutely tuned to the distribution methods that net them the most money. And there's no way they'd take a chance on harming existing channels by aggressively deploying a new channel before they have some assurance that cannibalization is minimal and new markets can be created.

CinemaNow and Movielink, both of which offer who offer D2B services, have found uptake to be poor. The problem is pretty simple. Movie rentals and purchases are all about the content, and when the content can be had. Since the studios are cautious, the content D2B offers is widely available elsewhere, through the traditional channels.

While 49 percent of adult Internet users are to some extent familiar with online movie stores that offer downloads, less than five percent report having purchased a movie download.

Not surprisingly, those most interested in D2B services are also the heaviest DVD buyers. On average, D2B potential users purchase 55 percent more movies than users who say they won't, or probably won't use D2B services.

Price sensitivity for B2D services also is significant as well. Still, the biggest problem is simply that the hassle factor is too great, the content selection available elsewhere and the price or time savings minimal to non-existent. This is going to be a tough market to jumpstart.

Joost will provide a new test, of course. But it still is hard to see how the incremental value outweighs the hassle, at least for most consumers. Non-traditional content likely will be the more important factor, ultimately.

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