What would happen if Random House launched an online competitor to Amazon’s book site? Crazy right? But Paramount is running a little experiment that is basically the same thing. They quietly launched direct rentals of Transformers: Dark of the Moon from their web site. Sounds crazy but combine original content with an off-the-shelf video rental platform and a little known effort called Ultraviolet and it might payoff, just not in the way you think.
Amy Powell, Executive VP Interactive Marketing and Film Production at Paramount says “We’re testing the waters and interested to see consumer feedback. It’s just a little toe-dip to move in the direction we believe will be one of the future distribution means for content.” It’s a “little toe-dip” designed to kick the distribution/technology wannabe gatekeepers in the nuts. But more on that in a minute.
The offering is being delivered on CSGI’s Content Direct platform. Content Direct is an off-the-shelf video rental platform that allows content providers to offer content directly to consumers. It includes member management, billing, ad monetization, and of course content management.
So Content Direct is a new wrinkle in the diffusion of video distribution. Most of the headlines have focused on Netflix, Apple, and Google and their TV/mobile plays. A platform like Content Direct means the content providers can open another front in the war for video dollars to scare distributors.Another interesting wrinkle adjacent to the direct-to-consumer rentals is Ultraviolet. It’s a standard/platform/alliance backed by most of the major studios and a who’s who of video industry and technology players. It basically allows for media portability. Want to watch a video on your Android tablet that you bought through iTunes on your computer? Not possible now. But if Ultraviolet takes off you could.
That all said, who really wants to have to go to twenty web sites to shop for a movie. Nobody.
But this isn’t about Paramount or other studios offering direct rentals. This is 100% about leverage. The industry fears Apple dominance in video the way they dominate music. They fear Google almost as much. Add direct to consumer offerings and media portability to distribution contract negotiations and the content guys get more leverage. As a result, content providers can ratchet down Apple’s, or anyone else’s, aspirations to take 30% of the dollars in the industry. Even if those would-be gatekeepers own the hardware, software, and ultimately the customer relationship.
Just another interesting salvo in the $500 billion television battle.