MovieBeam Finally Dead For Real

from the how-much-money-was-wasted-on-that? dept

Back in 2003, Disney’s brilliant idea to “compete” with TiVo and Netflix was to start MovieBeam. Just the fact that Disney felt it needed to compete with TiVo and Netflix shows you how backwards the thinking was at the point. Moviebeam was a terrible idea from the start. People were expected to buy (yet another) expensive set top box from Disney, which would basically be a very limited DVR. The hard drive would come packed with about 100 movies, and each week some would disappear and others would magically “beam” into the box. Despite the fact that you already had to pay for the box, you still had to pay each time you wanted to watch a movie — and, you were only given a 24-hour time period in which to watch that movie. Two years into the program (with only a few small test markets) Disney shut down the program. At the time, we figured it was gone for good, but somehow, some VCs and Cisco were convinced to pony up $50 million to bring this idea back to life as a spinoff from Disney. Yet, when the offering was relaunched (with a few small improvements) people still didn’t care. Earlier this year, the company was basically sold off for next to nothing, and now the company has announced that it’s shutting down operations next week. Who knows, though, maybe it’ll rise from the dead again, so that it can fail a few more times.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: disney, moviebeam

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “MovieBeam Finally Dead For Real”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Ajax 4Hire (profile) says:

Purchase could be for the patents...

In today’s litigious society, this could simply be a patent purchase.

Cisco wants to move into streaming video over the internet and this is one way. This technology falls right in line with the purchase by Cisco of Scientific-Atlanta.

This also sounds like the Apple iTV box released earlier this year. Also like Microsoft MediaCenter.

The Cable operators have learned how to make money providing streaming content (translates to “TV”). As content moves to the digital domain, the TV broadcast will die and distribution of content will become physical layer agnostic.

That is, the actual delivery method: Cable, DSL, IP, WiMAX, 3G/4G is not important to the masses. They want their MTV and they will get their TV.

Whoever learns to make money delivering MTV to the masses will be the next Standard Oil/GM/MicroSoft.

BTR1701 (profile) says:


I can’t believe people who have gone to the best business schools in the world and are running multi-billion-dollar companies actually think ideas like this will work. They really must exist in some kind of mental fantasy-land where people behave contrary to the usual norms of psychology and common sense. I mean, the moment I read the description of this MovieBeam thing, the first thing I thought was “Who in the hell would buy into something like that?” Apparently the CEO of Disney’s first thought was, “That sounds like something consumers will flock to in droves!”

The disconnect between the way normal people think and the way these entertainment executives think is stunning.

KevinL says:

Re: Amazing

Not amazing at all. You are confusing a person with cable or DSL broadband with someone who can’t or won’t. Moviebeam provided video on demand without also having to pay for cable TV or for broadband. It was meant as an alternative to video store rentals. I beleive the reason it failed had more to do with the price structure than with the technology. It didn’t fit well with consumers to pay $250 for a box and then pay $4 for a movie with only 24 hours to watch it. The technology behind it worked great. Actually, the group at Dotcast who developed the technology were amazing (you were right!). Once you paid for the box (I got one for $50 with a $50 rebate), the only out of pocket was per view.

DBT says:


Actually the Movie Beam worked fairly well for us. We do not have digital cable and were able to watch movies on demand. We did not pay anything for our box. MovieBeam offered it to us completely free. We didn’t even pay shipping. The only drawbacks were the 24 hour viewing time and the movies available weren’t the best movies. Otherwise I thought it was a good idea.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:


Hey, I know it’s now 11 years later, so my comment isn’t exactly “timely”…buuuut

Both your comment and the one by KevinL above are saying “Nah, it’s not so bad. I got a box for free (or $50 for him), and after that, it’s a good deal.”

Sure, but what does that say about their business, if they have to give away the hardware to get anyone to adopt their service? At the time, those were high-end HD boxes. They had to give them away at a loss to win customers. So, for a number of months, until they buy enough movies that the margin wins back the cost of the equipment, every customer represents a loss.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...