UPDATED WITH MORE DETAILS, 11:10 AM: Sony Pictures has just released its plans for a VOD release of The Interview — and it begins today. After reviving the pic’s Christmas Day release yesterday and signing on more than 300 indie theaters who pledged to show the comedy starting Thursday, Sony has confirmed that the movie will be available for streaming rental in HD beginning at 10 AM PT on Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft’s Xbox Video and the dedicated website seetheinterview.com for $5.99. The film can also be purchased in HD for $14.99.
“It has always been Sony’s intention to have a national platform on which to release this film,” Sony Entertainment Chairman Michael Lynton said in the announcement. “With that in mind, we reached out to Google, Microsoft and other partners last Wednesday, December 17th, when it became clear our initial release plans were not possible. We are pleased we can now join with our partners to offer the film nationwide today.”
When the movie went live at 10 AM PT, this is how it looked on YouTube:
A streaming/VOD plan was the other shoe to drop from yesterday, when Sony reached a deal with indie cinema houses to show the controversial political comedy, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as a talk show producer and host who are enlisted to assassinate North Korea leader Kim Jong-un. Lynton said that in addition to the theatrical rollout beginning tomorrow, Sony was “continuing our efforts to secure more platforms.”
Reports began emerging this morning that streaming deals were coming. In addition to today’s announcement, sources say Netflix also is in talks to stream the movie as early as January. (UPDATE, 3:41 PM: As is customary when a theatrical window is breached by VOD, Starz, which held distribution rights to the pic, said it is releasing the film from its deal. “As the situation with The Interview is new territory and has been constantly evolving, Starz released the film from its output deal in order to allow Sony maximum flexibility with their distribution strategy,” a Starz spokeswoman said.)
There is no international streaming beginning today. (A FAQ on Sony’s seetheinterview.com says: “While we do hope to see the release of The Interview across the globe, for the time being this is limited to the USA only. You can only purchase the movie with a U.S. card, and can only stream it from a US IP address.”) The Interview was scheduled to open theatrically in Iraq and Lebanon tomorrow and roll out wider after the first of the year before all release plans were scrapped.
Conspicuously missing from the list of online outlets selling or renting The Interview are Sony’s own online video operations — most particularly the PlayStation Network, which runs on tens of millions of PlayStation 3 and PS4 game consoles plus the PS Vita handheld device and PlayStation Vue video-streaming device. Subscribers to the Plus version of the PlayStation Network already are set up to buy or rent movies. The omission is particularly notable givenThe Interview will be available on PlayStation’s main competitor, the Xbox Live online network that runs on Microsoft’s Xbox One and Xbox 360.
Sony said later in the day that The Interview will be available on PSN for customers in the U.S. at a date to be determined. In a statement, Sony Computer Entertainment said, “Given the last minute release of the title, we will focus on launching our current lineup and providing consumers with all the titles and entertainment they expect over the holiday. SPE has arranged for a dedicated website for premium viewing of the film, so anyone who wishes to watch the movie via that channel will be able to do so.”
PSN has also been attacked by hackers, most notoriously in 2011, when 77 million users’ information was taken, but also in distributed denial-of-service attacks this year in August and again a couple of days after the Sony Pictures attack happened. Sony Pictures’ own online video service, Crackle, also could carry the film, but it is a free, ad-supported “over-the-top” service that runs on all kinds of streaming devices.
In a blog post today, Google’s David Drummond, SVP Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, wrote about his company’s decision to participate in the streaming rollout. “Last Wednesday Sony began contacting a number of companies, including Google, to ask if we’d be able to make their movie, The Interview, available online,” he wrote. “We’d had a similar thought and were eager to help — though given everything that’s happened, the security implications were very much at the front of our minds.
“Of course it was tempting to hope that something else would happen to ensure this movie saw the light of day. But after discussing all the issues, Sony and Google agreed that we could not sit on the sidelines and allow a handful of people to determine the limits of free speech in another country (however silly the content might be).”
The idea of a VOD did not sit well in exhibition circles, with some indie venues originally all-in to screen the movie deciding to back out when they learned of Sony’s day-and-date plan. Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures President of Worldwide Distribution, last night disputed a Deadline report saying exhibitors were upset over Sony’s handling of The Interview release, saying relations with exhibitors that are part of NATO and independents have not been damaged by the radically changing situation.
Rogen tweeted today his preference but was careful:
Here are details about how to watch the movie on the platforms, via Sony.
· Google Play: the movie is available to buy or rent at play.google.com, and can be watched in the Play Movies & TV app on Android and iOS phones or tablets, or streamed in the living room via Chromecast, Roku or the Nexus Player.
· YouTube: the movie is available at youtube.com/movies and can be watched on the web, in the YouTube app, or on select living room devices like Chromecast, Apple TV, PlayStation and Xbox.
· Microsoft’s Xbox Video: the movie is available to buy or rent on the Xbox Video app on Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and XboxVideo.com.
· SeeTheInterview.com: In addition, The Interview is available at the dedicated website http://www.seetheinterview.com, which is sponsored by Sony Pictures and powered by Kernel and with payments through Stripe, a secure payment platform.
When Sony announced its multiplatform intentions yesterday, nobody from the usual streaming suspects including Amazon, Netflix and iTunes was talking. In Europe, French powerhouse Wild Bunch, which has its own VOD platform in the country, responded to a question about whether it would show the film via VOD like this: “OUI!” It added, “We’d love to, but don’t think we’ll have access. We’ll see…”