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.