The premium mobile video market is still relatively nascent and open to new entrants compared to its PC sibling, where companies like Hulu, Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) have established firm market shares that have created a challenge for other providers to get a break. The mobile music streaming company mSpot, which has built a lot of its business on wholesale deals — it powers the music and video services offered by Sprint (NYSE: S) — and claims to be the first company to have offered premium film streaming to mobile devices, is one of the companies looking to carve out more of a brand for itself in the mobile video space. It’s going after market share using the time-honored approaches of cut-rate prices and subscription services.
From today mSpot has announced new monthly fees for its mSpot Movies Club that will mean that members can rent most new releases, from a catalog of “thousands” of new release titles, for around $3, in contrast to many other services that typically charge around $4 for the same titles. The films will typically come to mSpot just as they are released on DVD, which means that they will be available earlier than they can be expected to come on to Netflix on DVD, and some one to seven years before they would appear on Netflix’s streaming service, says the company.
The move is mSpot’s attempt to ramp up its own retail operation, which provides much better margins than a wholesale service. While the Sprint service can potentially get used by millions, Brook Eaton, product manager for the service, says that mSpot currently only has user numbers in the thousands.
The mobile video streaming space is relatively new and potentially set to explode with the growing use of tablets. We’ve seen many of the makers of those tablets — particularly those on Android — trying to push content services such as video streaming to help differentiate their products from the rest of the pack. (HTC and Motorola (NYSE: MMI) are two OEMs that have launched movie streaming services with their tablet devices.)
But although mSpot is currently trying to promote its retail operation, that does not mean that it is leaving the wholesale business behind. Eaton hints that mSpot is already working with at least one major OEM on a streaming service — details of that are still under NDA although they could be announced later this year, he tells mocoNews.
Memberships for the mSpot movie club, which give users “credits” towards renting films, range from $4.99 to $15.99 per month in the U.S. Users can also purchase films a la carte.
The service can be used through specific apps for iOS and Android, or via a PC browser or mobile browsers on some 50 different handset models.