According to a report from Bloomberg, movie studios are thinking about ignoring objections of commercial cinemas and press ahead with a plan to offer digital rentals of titles a few weeks after their initial release. Some of the biggest supporters of the idea (Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures) are continuing to negotiate with Apple Inc. and American cable company Comcast Corp. on ways to make the idea happen without the support of the theatre chains.
However, so far the two sides have been unable to arrive at an agreement.
Apart from Walt Disney Co., a company that always likes to control its own access to content, many of the other major studios are seeing a new digital access product as less of a replacement for the initial commercial cinema, but more of a replacement for falling physical disc sales. However, the elephant in the room here is of course the much closer time following initial release, that studios want to deliver.
According to reports, studios have discussed sharing a split of the revenue from premium video on demand, or PVOD, with the cinema chains if they give their blessing. The sticking point apparently is the length of time for that deal to run, the theatres want a decade, the studios don’t.
Reports suggest that the shape of the deal between producers and domestic suppliers varies between a release date of about 17 days after debut, for $50, or four to six weeks from release for $30. The option of trying it in other territories before the US has also been discussed, although this is unlikely to be Europe.
So don’t expect any firm deal too soon for the US or Europe, however, insiders hint that it could happen as early as next year if the likes of Apple and Comcast can agree terms and a deal could see downloads available as early as two weeks after commercial release. In the US at least, the fact that Universal Pictures also owns the biggest cable operator in Comcast, should grease the wheels.
If the studios could agree in principle a deal with some big domestic distributors like Apple, this of course would give them the leverage to use on the commercial theatres to come back to the table. But you could equally argue, the theatres might jump the other way and boycott titles that are offered to their domestic rivals.
Financial analysts seem to be saying that despite all the sabre rattling, they don’t expect to see dramatic stand-offs, too much to lose all round, so as this site suggested last week, we seem to be slow heading for more movie content available to home cinemas, no bad thing.