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.

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Companies: warner bros.

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

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Anonymous Coward says:

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!

SirThoreth (profile) says:

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.

Dirkmaster (profile) says:

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.

Zakida Paul (profile) says:

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?

jackn says:

Re: 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).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Zakida Paul (profile) says:

Re: 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.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

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.

out_of_the_blue says:

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.

Rikuo (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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!

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: 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.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

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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