In early May, Time Warner Inc. announced that it has purchased the websites Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster is the world’s most popular movie community in social media. Over the past month, Time Warner has indicated that they will play a major role in the future of video distribution.
On May 25th, Time Warner CFO John Martin announced at Barclay’s 2011 Global Communications, Media and Technology Conference that Flixster will serve as an essential “front end that will be plugged into UltraViolet.” The UltraViolet system, as mentioned in earlier posts, is pegged as the film industry’s main catalyst to give consumers the ability to access their purchased videos on a variety of devices, increasing the value of content, and movie producers believe that this added value will promote the purchase over the rental of content.
While Time Warner has historically been criticized as a slow adopter of new technological trends in distribution, the combination of UltraViolet and Flixster will make Time Warner a major force in the promotion the “content anywhere” concept.
Along with its role in UltraViolet, Time Warner was also behind one of the first “content anywhere” video systems with HBO Go. HBO Go allows HBO subscribers to access all the episodes of HBO original programming, movies, and other content from a computer, tablet, or smartphone. This revolutionary system brings popular TV shows and movies beyond the DVD and Blu-ray box sets, and on to their Internet-connected mobile devices.
While Martin only literally spends a minute discussing Flixster and UltraViolet at the conference, he provided numerous hints to their roles in the digital age, but he also raised a couple of questions on how the future will look.
For starters, Martin mentioned that Flixster users would be able to upload their movies to Flixster. This ability directly contradicts what UltraViolet is set up to do, i.e. be a cloud-based system where the movies are already there and you only purchase the right to access them.
I believe this statement indicates one of two things: Martin misspoke using the wrong verb to describe the process (however this seems unlikely since he seemed to be very conscious of how he describes things) or Flixster will provide this ability as a complement to UltraViolet’s features. If this upload ability is true, many of us will be wasting numerous hours uploading our video libraries; however, on the bright side, I will not have to buy “The Godfather” for the fourth time.
Another peculiar statement that caught my attention was that consumers would be able to buy or rent a movie at the click of a button. The ability to rent movies with a single click would allow Time Warner to compete directly with Amazon’s Instant Video and YouTube and indirectly with Netflix and Hulu. The advantage of Flixster over these other services is that it is in the middle of the social media world and it’s focused on films.
Along with Steve Jobs’ announcement of the iCloud a few days ago, it appears “content anywhere” is coming. The next major battle in the film distribution world is where people will store their movies and how.