Viacom has announced it’s joining forces with Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate to form a new pay TV channel, VOD and online service. Details are slim, but according to Variety, the online component would most likely not be an ad-supported model (like Hulu), but would look to make every title available as soon as contractually allowed.
Here are some questions this deal raises:
1. These studios tried to band together before, and the result was Movielink — which went nowhere. What makes them think it will work this time?
2. What is the technology it will use to implement this on-demand and online vision? Will PCs and portable devices be in the mix?
3. Since the owners of this distribution service also own the content, how will this impact movie rental companies like Vudu and Apple TV? Will content releases be windowed for outside partners?
4. How will this new venture avoid the online mistakes made by other pay networks? HBO’s strategy has been haphazard, and Showtime primarily uses the web for promotion. What is the venture’s vision for keeping a healthy subscriber base in conjunction with a robust online offering?
5. In a world where exclusivity is ending, is it a viable strategy to build a business around creating yet another content silo? How many movie services will people sign up for?
To help the new joint venture out, here are three suggestions to help it succeed where other pay networks have failed:
Make it seamless. It should be easy to shift between oldteevee and newteevee. Don’t make me jump through complicated hoops. If I’m a subscriber, let me have a log-in so I can enjoy the content online.
Make it portable. Subscribers should be able to download content to their PCs or iPods and take it with them. (Yes, fine, you can DRM it.)
Make it everything. Don’t say you’re an on-demand service unless you plan on being truly on demand. Put all of your content online. All of it. Don’t rotate it through, making subscribers wonder when a movie or show will be available. Just slap it all up there.