These days that title could apply to several situations, but the one I speak of today is the skirmish that has been underway between Redbox, low-cost good-guy renter of movies on DVD, and Warner Bros.
Warner has been objecting to the kiosk locations releasing their movies as soon as they are available for sale. The logic is somewhat askew here, for, as I have mentioned before, I know many people who will view a DVD from Redbox before purchasing it. What guides the purchase of the DVD outright is the content, not the early availability – most do not view the purchase of an unknown movie as an impulse item.
Certainly with the cost of theaters today, Warner Bros. cannot expect people to see everyone of the movies that the company releases. If no reliable review from a friend or relative is forthcoming, there will probably be no purchase. On the other hand, there are certainly many who will risk a dollar to see the movie, and, if they like it well enough, will purchase. It is the way we do it in my house.
It is not as if the additional 28 day inability to see the movie on DVD is going to make a huge difference in the sales (4 week waits only kill little children under the age of 5), people have waited long enough since the ad campaign was running hot and heavy, a little more waiting is not going to change the sales picture by much, if at all. Besides, many movies get lost in the shuffle, being forgotten about unless they are a product of continuing chatter. That chatter could be kept up with a few rentals at $1, prodding sales, and more views, and so it would continue.
In a multiyear distribution agreement sure to spark controversy among users of Redbox Automated Retail machines, the video rental kiosk operator has agreed to refrain from renting newly released Warner Bros. DVDs for a period of 28 days.
The deal is similar to one Netflix made with Warner Bros. last month, prompting accusations that the video rental site was selling out to the studio. But in return for supporting a sales-only window following the immediate release of DVDs, a practice Warner Bros. hopes will help prompt movie fans to buy rather than rent, Netflix received something in return it badly needs: the rights to show more films over the Web. Netflix is betting big that the Internet is the future of film distribution.
In Redbox’s case, the Coinstar subsidiary, whose financial situation Larry Dignan of CNET sister site ZDNet reviewed last week, apparently will receive better pricing on Warner Bros. DVDs.
The Warner Bros.-Coinstar agreement, set to expire January 21, 2012, also includes the dropping of a Redbox antitrust lawsuit against Warner Bros. Redbox had said in recent filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that the company was concerned over DVD prices.
It’s sad that Warner Bros. doesn’t see the picture, where some may remember who the distributor of a movie is when they see this outcome, and perhaps that will be all that is needed to change a mind between the purchase of a WB movie and one of another distributor. This is Warner Bros. pretending that it can influence customer behavior by denying them what they want. That’s a plan that very infrequently works out.
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