Warner Brothers Thinks What People REALLY Want In A Streaming Service Is Something That Costs More But Offers Less

from the artificial-scarcity-meets-artificial-infinity dept

Warner Brothers, one of the many studios to sign on to the rightfully-maligned Ultraviolet "service," and tireless proponent of lengthy arbitrary blackout periods, has decided to leap ungracefully into the streaming business with Warner Archive Instant.

Now, Warner Archive Instant isn't necessarily meant to be a Netflix killer. (Or even to take out the severely wounded Hulu.) It's way too niche for that. But it's unclear exactly what perceived gap in the market Warner is hoping to fill (other than a gap of its own creation). Here's a few of the underwhelming details.

Warner Archive Instant [is] a service that streams vintage films and shows from the vast Warner Bros. catalog. It's an offshoot of the existing Warner Archive DVD and Blu-ray site, but the digital selection is unfortunately rather limited — there are only 123 distinct titles available as of now. While most of these aren't typically found through other outlets, it's still a pretty small selection, particularly for the $9.99 monthly fee associated with the service. Warner says that it'll be constantly adding and rotating new content in and out, but for now it's not the most robust offering around.
This certainly sounds like a studio-directed effort. More expensive with less selection! That's what people are looking for in a streaming service! Warner, despite dipping a toe into the Stream, seems to be relying on artificial scarcity to drive subscriptions. Many of the movies and shows it offers on Archive Instant aren't available through other streaming services or retailers. So, if you're absolutely dying to watch selected episodes from seasons 2 & 3 (but not the entire seasons, mind you) of 77 Sunset Strip (or late-80s insta-classic Disorderlies) and have nothing better to do with a ten-spot, Warner Archive is tailored precisely for you.

Of course, this being a studio effort, there are a whole lot of caveats to the severely limited, expensive, streaming service -- many that you won't find hampering cheaper services with more titles.

For instance, if you want true HD, you have a single option: Roku box to TV. That's it. Hi-def streaming for PC and Mac is not supported "at this time." Also not supported: smart TVs, networked Blu-Ray players, Wii/Xbox/PS3 or mobile devices. Here's more good news: the service can only be utilized on one device at a time.

This service is far too limited and far too expensive to appeal to about 99% of everybody. Perhaps several months down the road when Warner adds more (and it will need to add a lot) content, it might be tempting. But even with additional content, it will still be nothing more than yet another streaming service competing for market share in an overcrowded field.

Warner is making a couple of mistakes here (at least). The first is arbitrarily locking up certain content solely to "create" a market for the shackled products. The second mistake is assuming people are clamoring for a fragmented streaming market. Most people are satisfied with one or two services and very occasionally use others to fill in the gap. What they're not interested in is creating yet another account, setting up yet another device and adding yet another line item to the debit side of their bank accounts in order to access limited niche content. (And even the "niche" part can be argued. The titles available are hit-and-miss -- a collection of true classics mixed with below average films, accompanied by a bizarre selection of TV shows, some of which are represented as "best of" sets, rather than the entire season[s]. Archive Instant seems to have been set up by a faulty database query, rather than curated with the classic movie fan in mind.)

At the end of the day, though, Warner will still be able to say it tried. When the MPAA presents its anti-piracy legislation suggestions, it will point to this (and Ultraviolet) as evidence of the studios' willingness to meet pirates potential customers halfway. What it fails to understand is that meeting customers halfway rarely results in a sale. And when nobody's buying the crap the studios are shoveling, to them, it just looks like pirates all the way down.



Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 8:59am

    These companies are always pretty foolish when it comes to streaming. Yeah Hulu is being killed when most of what anyone could care about is hulu+ if its even offered at all.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:08am

    Oh boy, less and more limited service for higher monthly fees, EXACTLY what I wanted!

    I LOVE paying more and more each month and getting less and less in return!

    I'll finally be able to feel good about myself when I to sleep at night, because I'll know I'm helping some other good person get rich at my expense!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 4:40pm

      Re:

      "I LOVE paying more and more each month and getting less and less in return"

      Youve just described the state of our rights

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:10am

    I bet it will cost more to implement and maintain then they will make in subscription fees.

     

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    SirThoreth (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:14am

    It isn't about succeeding...

    ...it's about making it look like you made a "good faith effort", when you're engineering it to fail, then writing off the loss on your taxes, insisting piracy (instead of lack of a compelling product) is the problem, and then insisting on more legislation to put the actually successful streaming services under, and propping up your old business model.

     

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      Dirkmaster (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:25am

      Re: It isn't about succeeding...

      While I agree that it's designed to fail, I don't think it's to point at piracy. It's so they can say "See, no one really wants streaming. We had a streaming service and it didn't take off. That's why we don't make our movies available online." It's to silence the argument that they aren't giving customers enough choice.

       

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        Zakida Paul (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:28am

        Re: Re: It isn't about succeeding...

        Then we point to the success of Netflix/Love Film/Spotify etc and their argument falls apart.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:29am

        Re: Re: It isn't about succeeding...

        No, I think the people running these services for the studios are people who remember the Edsel and think it was a wonderful car.

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 11:02am

          Re: Re: Re: It isn't about succeeding...

          /pedant mode on

          Actually, the Edsel was a good car, and had some wonderful innovations that were adopted by everyone else (warning lights, for example).

          The main reason that it failed in the marketplace was that it was ugly.

           

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            Atkray (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 11:31am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It isn't about succeeding...

            So you still have yours? ;)

             

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              John Fenderson (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 12:22pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It isn't about succeeding...

              Nah, I'm not that old. :) And actually, the only reason I know anything at all about the Edsel is because I wrote an essay on it. Cars aren't much my thing.

               

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                SirThoreth (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 3:12pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It isn't about succeeding...

                I don't know if I'd compare it to the Edsel. The Edsel actually had redeeming features. Warner Brothers' plan doesn't.

                That said, I prefer the Corvair to the Edsel.

                 

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            The Groove Tiger (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 12:57pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It isn't about succeeding...

            I thought the main reason it failed was that the market changed from "the larger the tank and the more gas it guzzles, the cooler you are" to "affordable and efficient japanese economy cars".

            I learned that from an episode of Quantum Leap.

             

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:34am

        Re: Re: It isn't about succeeding...

        It about killing the Internet, by being able to claim that they can't compete with the pirates on the Internet, and that only total control of it will restore their rights under copyright.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:33am

      Re: It isn't about succeeding...

      This. It's about building up a false strawman, rather than, y'know, competing in the marketplace.

       

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        JEDIDIAH, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:46am

        Re: Re: It isn't about succeeding...

        You never know. They could be arrogant enough to think that this service is worth what they are asking for it.

        Calling this thing some sort of conspiracy might be giving the guys at WB too much credit.

        Don't assume malice when incompetence is sufficient.

         

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          jupiterkansas (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 11:03am

          Re: Re: Re: It isn't about succeeding...

          You are correct.

          These are movies they can't make money on in a proper release because there is little audience for them. They are obscure, and the site is aimed at serious film buffs.

          Their goal is obviously to make these movies available while spending as little money as possible.

           

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    Bob Buttons, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:16am

    How much do you wan to bet they blame piracy for this thing's inevitable failure?

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:27am

    What I want from streaming services is for the entertainment industry to realise that the Internet DOES NOT HAVE BORDERS. Living in the UK, we do not have access to anywhere near the content that US citizens have.

    Compare the US and UK Netflix libraries, or the content on Love Film as opposed to Amazon Prime Video (which Amazon don't even offer here). The difference in content is stark and yet we have to pay the same subscription fees.

    Regional blocking and windowed release models are feeding piracy, when will the entertainment industries realise this?

     

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      SirThoreth (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:32am

      Response to: Zakida Paul on Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:27am

      They realize. They just don't care. After all, they can enlist the Department of Homeland Security to go after pirates, or get extortionist settlements by threatening life-destroying lawsuits?

       

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      jackn, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:43am

      Re:

      yes, amazon is still grapling with how to deliver services in UK english. The have US english down well.

      Well, right o and all that...

       

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      jackn, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:46am

      Re:

      perhaps they should realize that they are dealing with a quadratic equation. The are two answers for the same result (profit). Actually, one of the answers will produce more revenue for less expense (AKA Higher profit).

      I think they are more interested in power over efficient business models (profits).

       

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        Zakida Paul (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:49am

        Re: Re:

        "I think they are more interested in power over efficient business models (profits)."

        In that case, they aren't very good at business.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 12:35pm

        Re: Re:

        Actually, if it's quadratic it's like inverted. Meaning that there is only 1 answer that will maximize profit

        I have a suspicion they are closer to the x than to the peak...

        .
        . .
        . x
        . .
        . .

         

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      PaulT (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:56am

      Re:

      Yeah, the content available to UK customers tends to be inferior - my solution to that is a VPN. You'd be amazed at how many people I know used to pirate, but started paying for a VPN + Netflix + other things when they were actually able to access them. Sadly, as any Brit knows, fleecing us for inferior content at the same prices as the US (or higher) isn't exactly unprecedented, and that's a cash cow they'll be hard to shake (and they'll blame piracy if Netflix UK loses its subscribers due to poor content offerings).

      You can, by the way, access US content on Netflix via a VPN, you may just lose some of the additional features in doing so as it puts you into a travelling mode and it's less likely to be accessible from certain devices. I do it all the time from Spain, and rarely bump into problems, although mileage does seem to vary among my friends,

      "Regional blocking and windowed release models are feeding piracy, when will the entertainment industries realise this?"

      I've been saying it since the early 2000s at least, and for most of the decade I was just called names. At least they're offering *some* services to *some* people, although I dare say that Sky is probably going to the movie/TV folks' preferred outlet in the UK over Hulu in the short-to-medium term for a lot of content - more opportunities to collect a bigger slice of the pie and upsell to higher margin services.

       

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        Zakida Paul (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 11:00am

        Re: Re:

        I use Unblock US with Netflix to get access to the US content. I pay my subscription and copyright fanboys still try to make me feel guilty about it. I guess we will never win.

        There is absolutely no technical reason content cannot be made available more widely. The only reason is control and maintenance of the monopoly that has been enjoyed for decades.

         

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          PaulT (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 11:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Aha, yes that's my service too ;) Also, yes, there's no technical reason why a service can't be made available worldwide, but at least they're licensing content somewhere. Baby steps, it's just a shame that they need to use the US as their testing ground.

          Ignore the morons, I think they're just panicking that their "everyone who complains is a pirate" mantra looks even sillier when you can prove you're paying more to access a service than they do. I've been called a pirate here before when I explained that the reasons I picked an independent Blu Ray over a studio release were due to region coding and vastly inferior extras on the UK copy of the studio film. They literally can't comprehend that paying customers are the ones being negatively affected by their industry.

           

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    Chosen Reject (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:35am

    rotating new content in and out
    What?! This isn't a theater where you have a limited number of screens or broadcast TV where you have limited time slots. Who are these idiots? Why in the world would you make a movie available for streaming and then take it out of rotation? This is asinine. These people couldn't figure out how to create a good streaming service if Netflix handed it to them.

     

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    BentFranklin (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:37am

    "rotating new content in and out"

    That is what turns me off. Who wants to play that game?

     

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      jackn, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:40am

      Re:

      yep, rotate content out..... they fail.

       

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        Simple Mind (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 11:04am

        Re: Re:

        That is the most annoying thing about Netflix. You remember seeing something while browsing or put something in your Q a while ago. Now you feel like watching that thing and you search for it but it isn't there anymore.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 11:40am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I believe Netflix's rotation is due to whatever deals they had to make with the studios to get the proper licenses in the first place. Until this can be shown otherwise, I am not going to blame Netflix for that stupidity.

           

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            jupiterkansas (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 8:10am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Yes, it's not Netflix's fault, but it is annoying. At least they've started putting "expiration dates" on movies, which just indicates what an awful, twisted mess the whole business is in.

             

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      Zakida Paul (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:43am

      Re:

      Same here. I do not want to watch content on anyone's schedule but mine. I want to be able to enjoy my content how and when I want without restrictions.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 2:27pm

      Re:

      Yup. Since Warner is the rightsholder, what's the point in rotating anything? Just make it available.

      It's just one crummy idea after another for these guys isn't it.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:38am

    They created this so when they lobby the government for more protection and harsher infringement punishments, they can say "Look, we put streaming option on the internet like people wanted and they still wouldn't pay!"

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:53am

    Your copy-paste left out is for fans of old movies,

    probably available nowhere else. Possibly big selling point.

    And given the vintage of film, looks aimed at adults who'll actually pay up, not piratey kids wanting constant explosions for free, another point that may lead to success.

    But while on subject of user-friendly: "theverge.com" has one of the worst website designs I've yet come across. The two (short) actual paragraphs of text are halfway down the page, buried in much distracting. So from that lousy design, I wouldn't take the opinion as too weighty -- though they do lean slightly positive, unlike Techdirt's pervasive negativism.

     

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      Rikuo (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:14am

      Re: Your copy-paste left out is for fans of old movies,

      "Your copy-paste left out is for fans of old movies,
      probably available nowhere else. Possibly big selling point."

      Really? All of the movies being offered in this service are literally not available anywhere else? I'm not even going to go to the bother of checking Piratebay. I know that most, if not all, of them will be there.

      Oh, and FYI, I'm not a kid who wants constant explosions. I'm 24 years old, full-time employment, able and willing to pay when I deem I get full bang for my buck. Yet I still infringe.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:34am

        Re: Re: Your copy-paste left out is for fans of old movies,

        I thought it I might check into it but when I found out about the cons, it was a terrible idea. I use Netflix and I have it for my computer, projector, and iPad. There is no complicated setup, it just works. To do what WB is doing they actually have to work on making it not work. Why would anyone want to have a service that the service provider works against the customer.

         

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        jupiterkansas (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 11:06am

        Re: Re: Your copy-paste left out is for fans of old movies,

        These are movies that would be hard to find even on Pirate Bay.

         

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      John Fenderson (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 11:06am

      Re: Your copy-paste left out is for fans of old movies,

      Every so often, you say something that I wholeheartedly agree with. This time, it's this:

      But while on subject of user-friendly: "theverge.com" has one of the worst website designs I've yet come across.


      It's so bad that it keeps me from reading the site.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 1:41pm

      Re: Your copy-paste left out is for fans of old movies,

      "probably available nowhere else. Possibly big selling point."

      All the titles are available either as on-demand or factory-produced DVDs.
      Some are also available as BluRays.
      Do you even think before you type, boy?

       

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    wolfy, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:55am

    Looks like they're taking their Cable TV business model to the web. They don't seem to realize that they don't get the captive clientele they have in the cable market.

     

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    miatajim (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:56am

    Ultraviolet, that "thing" I have been told to avoid for years.......

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:09am

    all this shows is how much the entertainment industries are out of touch with both customers and reality. given the business they are in, i can understand the second one. until they actually get their heads out of the sand (or their arses, whichever is the most apt) and start to listen to and cater for customers, whatever they offer is never going to be sufficient or compete with 'file sharing'. giving a service that is even marginally below what users can get from 'alternate sites' is going to leave them far behind. giving a service that is only so they can go back to the government, cap in hand yet again, pleading for more and stronger laws will probably work, simply because no one in government is interested in checking out those offerings and is too afraid that the truth will actually be revealed, making the industries look exactly what they are, lying, cheating bastards!

     

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    Devils_Advocate (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:14am

    Warner says...

    "Warner says that it'll be constantly adding and rotating new content in and out..."

    Warner says a lot of things. I've heard that, sometimes, they even do what they say.

     

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:17am

    There a lot of Warner Archive movies I'd like to check out, but I have yet to pay for any of them and I'm certainly not paying a subscription service just to watch their rare films.

    The reason they're rare is simply because it costs too much to make them generally available - i.e. they have little commercial value. The original Warner Archives were print-on-demand.

    The real point is that these movies should be public domain, but they remain in Warner's vaults, and we're supposed to feel lucky they're bothering to make them available to us at all. Now think about all the movies that aren't available at all.

     

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    Vhalidictes (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:17am

    Too Little, Too Late

    Demand Destruction. It's a thing.

    I don't pirate, I don't care enough to. I'll start sending Hollywood money once content creators figure out this whole "Internet" thing.

    It might end up coming down to generation change among content owners.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:20am

    This is probably a ploy by Warner Bros.

    Chances are they want this to fail so they can go and say that if they make more things available online via streaming and licensing (like itunes does for music) that it won't/can't make money. Therefore they need more protection for DVDs, internet streaming, and to ignore the whole online avenue as a means to sell movies.


    That's the only possible take I can possibly see the MAFIAA getting from a system it designed to fail.

     

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      jupiterkansas (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:57am

      Re:

      My impression is they want to spend as little as possible on it, because they know they can't make much money on these films. It's aimed at serious film buffs.

       

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        PaulT (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 1:39am

        Re: Re:

        I agree it doesn't appear to be a mainstream product, at least at the moment. Which, of course, just raises the question of why they'd set up their own service for these films rather than simply licencing them out to existing suppliers. The cost of the infrastructure alone must guarantee that they get less net income than they would by simply licencing to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Vudu, etc. They could set up an exclusive deal with Hulu Plus in the same way Criterion do, and they would probably already have the film buff market ready and waiting for them.

         

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          jupiterkansas (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 8:04am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well obviously I can't read their minds, and there's lots to hate about Warners, but they do a great job taking care of their back catalog. The "Warners Night at the Movies" DVDs are as feature rich as Criterion discs and I always look forward to getting cartoons, newsreels, shorts, and commentaries with my movies.

          Warners is a huge company, and I suspect this is just one small division of the archives dept. that's really pushing to make these movies available and was probably setup to test print-on-demand over a traditional release. That makes sense for DVDs, but not for streaming, where licensing to Netflix or Hulu would help these movies find their audience.

          I could see subscribing for a month just to watch the handful of films that interest me and then canceling - provided the handful I'm interested in are available for streaming. That's $10 more than they're getting from me now. But really I've just been waiting for Netflix to buy their DVDs and rent them.

           

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    timmaguire42 (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:37am

    They're just noticing which way the winds are blowing.

    "More expensive with less selection! That's what people are looking for in a streaming service!"

    Netflix got a lot more expensive when they split their service and it their catalog gets smaller every month. WB is just taking it to the next level.

     

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      jupiterkansas (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:59am

      Re: They're just noticing which way the winds are blowing.

      The catalog gets smaller every month? Where's your proof of that aside from the one-time Starz deal? All I see is more movies being added.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 12:33pm

      Re: They're just noticing which way the winds are blowing.

      It's funny you should say that because Netflix literally got new content it's never had before a few days ago.

       

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    Zos (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:51am

    yo ho me hearties, yo ho.

     

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    gorehound (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 11:20am

    Stop Supporting the Damn MAFIAA Please !

    Purchase and Support Non-MAFIAA Content instead

    MAFIAA you are Censored from my Wallet for life !

     

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    Andrew D. Todd, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 2:41pm

    Comparative Pricing of Classic movies.

    I've been buying sets of classic movies from Edward R. Hamilton recently. Each set is twenty-five movies, compressed to fit on the four sides of two double-sided DVD's, for $3.95, or about sixteen cents a movie. These are in a permanent tangible form, without CSS copy protection, and with First Sale rights. By that standard, Warner Brothers' new offering, for much the same kind of movies, is overpriced by a factor of at least a hundred.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 4:13am

    They could offer part of their catalog included in a streaming service normal fee (ie: Netflix) and offer something more niche for extra $1 or $2. People don't have to go for yet another service and the fee will seem quite harmless/reasonable.

    But they don't care about the customer anyway do they?

     

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    Calcifer, May 4th, 2013 @ 2:51pm

    While the service seems incredibly flawed, it seems to currently be marketing to the same niche as the mod dvd line, so I wouldn't worry about it competing with netflix.

    Of course, that could always change. Warner claims the situation with Netflix is unrelated, so well find out in time if that's true r not.

     

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    Will, Sep 6th, 2013 @ 9:56pm

    No one cares about Warner Archives Instant, it couldn't kill net flix if it wanted to, plus the public aren't that stupid. Warner (and the other 'majors') waited way too long to cash in on this revolution and they've been left out in the cold and can';t do anything about that now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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