Fox Goes UltraViolet for Early VOD Releases
Having experimented last year with offering movies in a premium VOD rental window just 60 days after their theatrical debut, 20th Century-Fox is trying again, with a more modest early VOD offering, according to a report in Friday’s New York Times. Starting later this month with the Ridley Scott Sci-Fi thriller Prometheus, Fox will make all of its new releases available for sale via video-on-demand for $15 three weeks ahead of their release on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and rental VOD.
As part of the initiative, Fox for the first time will make the VOD movies available in the UltraViolet format, enabling consumers to register the movies in an online rights lockers for viewing on multiple devices. Fox had not previously released UltraViolet movies.
Fox will also attempt some rebranding around the electronic sell-through offer, dubbing the effort Digital HD, or DHD.
The move represents the studios’ latest effort to boost sales of movies — the main impetus behind the UltraViolet program. Sales of movies have been flagging for several years as consumers have shifted more of their movie spending into Blu-ray and DVD kiosk rentals and subscription VOD services like Netflix.
Fox’s move could also go a long way toward cementing in place a sell-through-only window ahead of any rental availability of movies. The studios have been carving out an ad hoc sale-only window over the past two years, imposing post-DVD street date windows of varying lengths on Redbox and Netflix. But with its “DHD” rebranding, Fox seems to be aiming to formalize the idea of purchase-availability ahead of rental availability in consumers’ minds.
One key will be whether a 21-day window will prove long enough to shift a meaningful amount of consumer spending out of the rental window and into the purchase window. Fox is clearly trying to strike a balance between shifting consumer behavior and limiting the fallout from other retailers and distributors over the change in windows. Anything longer than 21 days could risk the wrath of Walmart and Best Buy, fearful that high-def DHD sales could cannibalize in-store sales of Blu-ray discs.
In an interview with the Times, Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman Jim Gianopulos said the studio would offer all upcoming releases in the new DHD window for an indefinite period while it monitors the results.