Some time back I talked about Disney's upcoming movie site. Now according to the latest investor conference, they're planning on taking it a step further and are ready to roll on widespread testing. The original site looked like it was aimed at giving you cloud-based streaming of films you had already purchased on DVD. Now it seems that you can buy, rent and watch any of their films from the site, shortly after they are available in theaters.
It seems that Disney isn't interested in sharing the profits (or more likely, control) of its films with others online (I got something similar on a report card in grade school: doesn't play well with others).
Bob Chapek, the PoD (Pres. of Distro) for the mouse said they're ready to roll and are aiming for homes with kids. Makes, sense, they are Disney after all. But he put a finer point on it by saying that they are targeting the homebound, parents with young kids, too young for theaters.
This is an ongoing trend in the industry it seems. Theater exclusive times are getting shorter and shorter because more and more of us have larger screens at home and are more comfortable there. Theater owners are probably none too happy about this, but that's evolution. Disney is probably further pushing the them to coronaries by having some newer films come to other distribution channels faster. For example, the recent Johnny Depp-fueled Alice in Wonderland was on DVD 90 days after release. This even prompted some to speak out here in Europe.
The problem is going to be pricing from what I can see. For example the recent Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Alice in Wonderland and The Sorcerer's Apprentice with Nicholas Cage are all priced at $14.99 to buy (and not get a local copy) while on DVD. While neither of the first two are available for rent the third is for $3.99 for 48 hours.
Now, if you're frugal you can probably dig up the Blu-Ray, 2-disc version of the film for $13 or so (depending on where you shop online) which means you can then watch it in the car or anywhere you might have a Blu-Ray player while through their site you could only watch wherever you've got Internet. For a more limited availability, why would anyone pay more?
If Disney can't figure out proper pricing they might end up shooting themselves in the foot by pushing everything out to the net too early as it could amount to less people seeing it there and no one buying it online.
Then again, $15 isn't so bad if you're a family of four going to the theater could total a minimum of $50 (4 tickets, drink, food, fuel, time). Even a couple would be a minimum of $20 for tickets so if you're not alone, it might not be such bad pricing. Plus, if he/she leaves you, you've still got the film in the cloud so you can watch it with whomever you find next.
I suppose it's easier to price film than it might be to price TV episodes. Since those are sent free of charge to televisions it's probably just a question of the studios making sure they make as much or more money than they do from advertising and/or licensing deals.
There has also been talk in the past about the site being compatible with Ultraviolet. That service will allow you to register compatible devices and then stream to them when you have the rights to a digital version of a film or show. Really, it's sort of hardware-based rights management to prevent piracy. It's definitely being aimed at families as well since up to six people can access the account with their own personal preferences. They also say that firmware updates will allow you to upgrade devices you own now to Ultraviolet compliance.