Amazon’s Fire TV streaming video device now accommodates access to digital movie/TV show purchases and rentals on FandangoNow. It’s a noteworthy move since Amazon has historically shied away offering access to third parties in the same business of transactional video-on-demand.
FandangoNow, which is owned by NBCUniversal, is also available on Roku, Chromecast, Xbox, NVIDIA, Portal TV and Xiaomi.
Separately, Movies Anywhere has begun notifying registered users about updating their privacy agreement in order to continue service on the platform backed by all major studios except Lionsgate and Paramount.
“We’re sending this reminder to let you know that your Movies Anywhere Video Data sharing consent expires in 30 days,” read the email. “It’s important to renew now so that your account stays current. If you let your consent expire, newly purchased movies will not flow into and out of your Movies Anywhere account.”
Vudu is quietly dropping support for its Vudu To Go/In-Home Disc to Digital app, effective Jan. 1, 2020.
The Walmart-owned digital movie transactional service will still allow users to convert DVD and Blu-ray movies for digital access by scanning UPC codes on the Vudu app on select portable devices such as a mobile phone and tablet.
“We look forward to continuing to refine and improve the Disc-to-Digital experience for our users,” Vudu said in the email.
Walmart made headlines in 2012 when it partnered with five major studios (Paramount Home Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) enabling owners of DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies to access digital files of select titles stored in the cloud.
Lionsgate joined the platform shortly thereafter, while Disney opted to remain with its Disney Movies Anywhere platform, which is now branded Movies Anywhere.
Walmart, which launched the service in more than 3,500 stores, charged $2 per DVD or Blu-ray and $5 when upgrading to high-definition.
In 2017, Walmart switched the Disc-to-Digital platform to Vudu.com, enabling users to scan movie UPC codes (validating user ownership) through the platform app, using GPS to confirm the user’s IP address matched the address of their credit card on file. Vudu offered a free digital movie to entice users. Walmart acquired Vudu in 2010.
In 2018 Vudu discontinued conversions through the Apple version of its app, directing iPhone and iPad users to use Vudu’s mobile website to scan titles.
Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment, Fandango, has been re-elected chairman of the home entertainment trade group the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA). Douglas will be serving his second term as chairman.
Joining Douglas as officers are vice chair Suyin Lim, senior director, content acquisitions and partnerships, PlayStation Video; secretary Pedro Guiterrez Jr., director, digital stores movies and TV business and category management, Microsoft Corp.; and treasurer Michele Edelman, head of growth, Premiere Digital Services.
Bill Kotzman, Google/YouTube’s partner product manager, TV and Film; Erick Opeka, president, Cinedigm Digital Networks; and Jason Peterson, CEO of GoDigital Medial Group, will also serve on the association’s executive committee as at-large members.
Amazon returns to the EMA’s board, now represented by senior product manager Jude Fitzmorris.
Other returning board members are Amit Balan, head of marketing at Vudu, and Marty Graham, SVP at ComScore.
Three members newly appointed board members are Opeka, Edelman and Elissa Brown, VP of finance and operations at Movies Anywhere.
“The companies on EMA’s board of director reflect the variety of delivery mechanisms and business models in our vibrant industry,” said Mark Fisher, EMA president and CEO. “Each director brings an important perspective, and their wealth of experience will benefit the membership as EMA continues to be the forum for the home entertainment industry.”
The EMA is a not-for-profit international trade association. Members include digital retailers, MVPDs, AVOD and SVOD networks and channels, platforms, companies creating and/or distributing content for these channels of distribution, and companies providing services or technology for the use of others in this community. EMA was established in April 2006 through the merger of the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) and the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA).
On Oct. 15, AMC Theatres — the world’s largest movie exhibitor — launched “AMC Theatres On Demand,” a transactional platform enabling its A-List members to purchase or rent studio (notably Paramount, Lionsgate) movies in the home on their retail release.
Key to AMC’s push into home entertainment is the exhibitor’s leverage of its 19-million Stubs A-List loyalty membership base in the same way Amazon Prime entices more than 100-million Prime members with access to movies, TV shows and third-party SVOD services via Prime Channels.
As the retail market embraces transactional VOD and electronic sell through in place of DVD and Blu-ray Disc, media companies are using pre-existing customer loyalty to jumpstart digital success.
When packaged-media kiosk operator Redbox launched Redbox Digital in 2017, its initial marketing thrust was to its 27 million Redbox Perks members.
Indeed, Redbox claims that nearly half (48% ) of all Americans find out what’s new in home entertainment from its kiosks. The company recently enhanced the Perks program to reward members for each rental night instead of per title.
“The updated loyalty program increases the value of each Redbox experience,” Ash Eldifrawi, chief marketing and customer experience officer at Redbox, said at the time.
Last spring, Fandango launched a loyalty-rewards program — Fandango VIP+ — offering monetary credits for every four movies tickets purchased on its platform. VIP members also have 21 days to use their credit to stream movies and TV shows on FandangoNow.
“We needed to seed the system … to give customers an array of options to redeem their points,” Fandango chief marketing officer Adam Rockmore said in an interview.
While Fandango has not released data on VIP+ signups, Michael Pachter, media analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, believes AMC has the upper hand.
“AMC may have a competitive advantage over Fandango and others delivering in-home entertainment given the reach of its rewards program, loyalty of millions [of] A-Listers and studio partnerships,” he wrote in a note. “We see little downside to AMC’s new on-demand offering, given its reach to loyal customers.”
Then again, FandangoNow is part of Movies Anywhere, the movie marketing platform (supported by Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Disney/Fox) directing its 8 million registered users to buy and rent titles from its retail partners, which include Apple iTunes, Prime Video, Walmart’s Vudu, Comcast’s Xfinity Store, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV — and just recently: Verizon.
Overlooked in the quibbles with digital rights collection service Movies Anywhere (Why no TV shows? Where are Paramount and Lionsgate?) is a potential killer app that those in the transactional business may have overlooked — data.
At last month’s Entertainment Merchants Association OTT_X@ Pipeline 2019 conference in Los Angeles, Movies Anywhere GM Karin Gilford noted, “We’re using data in a ton of ways.
“We’re using a lot of the same industry data that you guys consume to make product decisions and now complementing that with robust usage data that we have in the app,” she said.
Usage data, that is the key. Never before has the industry had cross-studio, cross-retailer usage data like this. It’s gold.
Subscription video-on-demand data from Netflix and Amazon Prime are closely guarded by those services, which may be part of the reason why the impending Disney+, Apple TV+ and others are charging a nominal sub fee to gather customers and data.
Movies Anywhere is a “Netflix for transactional,” an unprecedented view into the buying habits and libraries of movie collectors. And Gilford noted that the service is adding theatrical information, including Rotten Tomatoes ratings, to gauge which films consumers most desire.
Fios TV customers with purchased movie titles from participating studios — Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Walt Disney Studios (encompassing Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm), Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment — can collect their library on Movies Anywhere.
Movies purchased from other participating digital retailers, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu/Walmart, Google Play/YouTube, Microsoft Movies & TV, and Fandango Now, will also be available for playback through Verizon Fios.
connect Fios and other participating digital retailer accounts;
see eligible purchased and redeemed movies appear on Movies Anywhere and on all synced accounts;
go to “My Stuff” to watch on Fios TV On Demand; and
continue to grow their library by purchasing eligible movies on Fios On Demand through their set-top-box, online, the Fios TV app or by selecting Verizon through the Movies Anywhere website or app for mobile and connected TV devices.
Movies Anywhere is a free app that lets consumer bring their purchased digital movies from various digital retailers into one place.
The female-driven mob drama The Kitchen arrives on digital (including Movies Anywhere) Oct. 22 and Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 5 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
Based on the Vertigo comic book series from DC Entertainment, the film stars Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, Tammy), Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip, Night School) and Elisabeth Moss (TV’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” TV’s “Mad Men”) as three 1978 Hell’s Kitchen housewives whose mobster husbands are sent to prison by the FBI. The three women take business into their own hands by running the rackets and taking out the competition.
As Movies Anywhere approaches its second anniversary in October, the movie library collection service boasts 8 million registered users; 7,800 titles; and 200 million movies stored — and it is poised to add an eighth retail partner, Verizon.
Movies Anywhere GM Karin Gilford noted these milestones during a presentation at the Entertainment Merchants Association’s OTT_X@Pipeline 2019 conference in Los Angeles Sept. 25.
Retail partnerships, such as the new deal with Verizon, are important to improving the overall experience, she said.
“On a day to day basis, we are working with them so that how we connect to the overall ecosystem is smooth,” she said.
Details on the Verizon pact are to come.
A key mission of the Movies Anywhere is to “drive purchasing habits,” she said.
“We want to drive transactions, obviously, but we want to make it a habit,” Gilford said. “We want to make it fun to build a collection. We want to have a great place to house that collection. We want make it really accessible everywhere you are.”
Service research shows that “once people use Movies Anywhere … they buy more movies,” she said.
The service has recently stepped up marketing.
“We launched a new advertising campaign that just kicked off a couple of weeks ago,” she said.
The campaign has rolled out on TV/OTT (cable channels via Simulmedia, Roku, FireTV); in theaters (via National CineMedia); in airports (LAX, JFK digital signage plus the Boingo wifi service); and online channels including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. An advertorial campaign is rolling out through October on channels such as Vox, Fandom and Twitch.
The blitz is designed to plant a flag in an increasingly crowded digital entertainment universe.
“We want to establish [Movies Anywhere] as differentiated from the SVOD services that are coming,” Gilford said, alluding to the impending launches of Disney+ and Apple TV+, among others.
Gilford showed the new 30-second spot for the service, as well as aspects of the welcome page.
The service designed the welcome page to greet consumers with “a really conversational approach,” she said and to make clear what Movies Anywhere provides.
“A lot of consumers don’t understand the economics and the business models that power the entertainment industry,” she said. “Why do you have to have ads in these episodes? Wait, all of these movies aren’t free? Those things do still come up even in 2019, and so it is really important, especially for something like Movies Anywhere, to be very clear about what we’re doing, what type of content is in here and what the mission is.”
The service has added new features, including 4K with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and a “Deals” section that calls out special offers from partner studios and retailers. The “Deals” feature came out of an analysis of data from the service showing a usage spike when there were special offers in the marketplace.
Movies Anywhere is also using data to inform studios about usage patterns in a way previously unavailable and is beginning to use data to customize the user experience.
“Studios having visibility into that data is going to make for a more powerful home entertainment business and a more powerful EST business,” she said.
While Movies Anywhere is backed by several major studios (Disney, Fox, Sony, Universal and Warner) prominently featured on the welcome page, Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate are not part of the service, which also does not feature television programming.
Retail partners include iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Walmart’s Vudu, Xfinity, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV and FandangoNow.
Comcast Cable earlier this year launched Xfinity Flex, a $5 monthly add-on streaming platform enabling broadband-only subscribers easier access to online content apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Now, among others.
Comcast is now offering Flex free to broadband subs, providing new and existing customers with the ability to access third-party streaming services and manage their connected home devices right on the TV.
Xfinity Flex leverages X1 technology with an Internet-connected, 4K UHD streaming TV device, Xfinity voice remote, a redesigned guide, and more than 10,000 free movies and TV shows.
The Flex set-top box is included, along with the Xfinity Voice Remote, as part of an Xfinity Internet-only subscription. Additional boxes will be available to lease for $5 per month per box (limit of two boxes per customer).
“Xfinity Flex gives customers a radically simple, aggregated television experience that personalizes their streaming choices across a sea of apps and services,” Matt Strauss, EVP, Xfinity Services, Comcast Cable, said in a statement.
Xfinity Flex’s myriad features include:
• A personalized guide with universal voice control, featuring a new home page with live, immersive tiles that help customers quickly get back into what they were watching;
• A new “Free to Me” destination where customers can easily browse more than 10,000 free movies and TV shows, and live streaming including live news and sports, from networks such as ESPN3, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Xumo, Cheddar, YouTube, Sky News, in addition to all the content included with their streaming subscriptions from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, Showtime, EPIX, Sling International and soon Peacock and Hulu;
• A new grid guide that compiles available live programming across networks and apps, and a curated destination for everything new to the platform;
• The ability to rent and purchase thousands of movies and shows from the digital store and access their digital lockers across platforms by pairing their account with home entertainment studios’ Movies Anywhere;
• The ability to browse and listen to music from Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and XITE using the voice remote;
• The ability to upgrade to Xfinity TV on X1 from the guide later this year, which offers hundreds of live channels, tens of thousands of on demand titles, and a cloud DVR;
• Xfinity Flex also provides customers with an easy way to better manage, control and enjoy the connected home by enabling them to easily access their entertainment, find their wi-fi password, see what devices are connected to their network, set parental controls, and evenpause wi-fi access on their home network;
“Today’s Internet customers need more than speed … simplified control of their connected home, and the best streaming experience,” Strauss said. “With Xfinity xFi and Xfinity Flex, we are including all of that and more with our Internet service, all in one place, on the best screen in the home.”
The actioner Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw will come out on digital Oct. 15 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and on demand Nov. 5 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
Franchise favorites Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, Skyscraper, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, The Meg, Spy) forge an unlikely partnership that provides fresh insight into their backstories with action across the globe, from Los Angeles to London and from the toxic wasteland of Chernobyl to Samoa. For years, hulking lawman Hobbs and lawless outcast Shaw have traded smack talk and body blows. But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton Lorr (Idris Elba, Thor: Ragnarok, The Dark Tower) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever, Hobbs and Shaw must partner up to bring him down.
Joining the cast as Shaw’s sister Hattie is Vanessa Kirby (Mission: Impossible-Fallout, “The Crown”).
Directed by David Leitch from a story by longtime “Fast & Furious” franchise narrative architect Chris Morgan and a screenplay by Morgan and Drew Pearce (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Iron Man 3), Hobbs & Shaw is produced by Johnson, Statham, Morgan and Hiram Garcia (Skyscraper, Rampage).
The film has earned more than $680 million at the global box office.
Hobbs & Shaw features more than 80 minutes (on digital, 4K UHD, Blu-ray) of bonus content, including an alternate opening; deleted, extended and alternate scenes; several featurettes with the filmmakers and cast that take fans further into the story; and an audio commentary by Leitch.
The 4K UHD version includes dynamic metadata feature HDR10+. The digital version is available on Movies Anywhere.