Fandango’s Cameron Douglas: TVOD ‘Quietly Had a Moment in 2020’

With the focus on the growth of SVOD and AVOD streaming services during the pandemic, transactional VOD has been somewhat overlooked, said Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment at Fandango.

“All the press is about SVOD and AVOD services, ad-supported or subscription, but transactional sort of quietly had a moment in 2020,” he said during a virtual panel for the American Film Market.

Premium VOD has certainly been a focus of services such as FandangoNow and sister TVOD outlet Vudu (both are owned by Fandango) as theaters have closed and new releases have rushed to digital, but catalog has been rising to the occasion as well.

“Our No. 1 library title today is Friday the 13th, because it’s Friday the 13th,” Douglas noted. “Sometimes the audiences find their own catalog.”

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Still, the Fandango team has been making an effort to bring catalog to the fore.

“We’ve had to work harder at curation of catalog because there’s fewer new releases that are those tentpoles that we can sort of talk about and then sort of drive the traffic to other content or discovery of other content,” he said. “We just launched this summer a new, what we call ‘staff pick,’ but it’s actually a joint creation between the Fandango team and the Rotten Tomatoes team where we’ve come up with themes and genres where we’ve been able to sort of bring different portions of the 150,000-title library up to the surface in different ways and fresh and interesting ways. … Right now, we have one that’s spy thrillers, and that’s probably because, as I think about it, there wasn’t a Bond movie to watch, and there’s probably an opportunity to catch up on those and certainly it had interesting and unfortunate timing having to do with [the death of James Bond star] Sean Connery.”

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One big advantage of TVOD services is that titles aren’t subject to a licensing window, like they are on SVOD and AVOD services.

“It’s the best Blockbuster story in the world because it has very deep content, from all eras, all genres,” he said. “I said a couple weeks ago in an article that it’s the canon of modern filmmaking essentially.”

Consumers also have the choice to rent or buy a title on TVOD services.

“FandangoNow and Vudu actually complement each other,” Douglas said. “Fandango is stronger in VOD, in rental, so that’s your Blockbuster activity, you’re renting a movie for 48 hours. Vudu has actually fostered more of a collector.”

Douglas admitted that he thought electronic sellthrough, which has an early window before disc, had seemed to foster “unintentional ownership” in the digital realm, as consumers bought titles merely because that was the only way to watch them.

“I think Vudu has proven me wrong on that,” he said. “Really there is a genuine collector. We’re seeing consumers that have amassed huge libraries, and it’s obvious that these are not things that were just in that two-week window. These are deep catalog. This is someone that’s collected every version of ‘Lord of the Rings,’ extended version, regular version, and they’re proud to have that in their library. It’s like the old ‘Cribs’ MTV Show where people always showed off their DVD collection … and I think now people are proud to show off their digital collection.”

Still, Douglas noted that theatrical exhibition is an essential part of the business.

“Our relationship with the exhibitors is very important to us, so we want people back in theaters as soon as safely possible, when each individual is comfortable with that,” he said.

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