Is 2008 the Year of VOD?

For all of you too lazy to drive to the video store or too impatient to wait for your DVDs in the mail, 2008 is shaping up to be a banner year for you. The video-on-demand (VOD) space is heating up, which means you have one less reason to pry yourself off the couch.

The Wall Street Journal writes that as the cost of distributing films theatrically keeps rising, movies being bought up at festivals like Tribeca are actually going to VOD platforms. For example, Mark “online video gloom and doom” Cuban’s HDNet acquired the rights to the dark comedy Finding Amanda, starring Matthew Broderick, but will release it on VOD before putting it in theaters. At last year’s Cannes, IFC picked up seven films to fill its VOD pipeline. Lots of indie movies get small theatrical releases, and in fact most of the movies acquired from Tribeca last year went straight to DVD or cable. But the economics of widespread theatrical distribution don’t hold up any longer.

And VOD isn’t just important for the art house set, either. Big names have also jumped into the on-demand pool lately.

Time Warner has announced that all of its DVD titles will be released concurrently on VOD this year. Apple says it will offer movies for purchase on the same day they’re released on DVD (something Vudu has offered for a while). VOD will play an important distribution role for the new pay network being created by Viacom, Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM. And let’s not forget the on-demand capabilities that TV networks are providing, both through their own sites and through sites like Hulu.

But the studios aren’t offering up all those sweet shows because they like you — they see dollar signs. A recent survey by consulting firm Oliver Wyman predicted that by releasing content on VOD on the same day and date as DVDs and jacking up the rental prices to anywhere from $7 to $9, consumer spending could be boosted by $5 billion by 2010.

Image grabbed from the online trailer for “Finding Amanda.”

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