After pursuing a solo quest for a digital movie download alternative to the movie industry consortium-backed UltraViolet, Disney has been joined by four other major studios — Fox, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros — in launching the Movies Anywhere service in the U.S. today.
While the service — which is wholly separate from Disney’s planned OTT streaming services — is owned by Disney, it has an advisory committee with representatives of the other studios. Paramount and Lionsgate are two of the main holdouts from the content side, though there are indications that Lionsgate is supportive of the initiative and could climb aboard in the coming months.
Using a free app and website, consumers can access eligible movies by connecting their Movies Anywhere accounts with accounts at Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes and Vudu. With their libraries synchronized across accounts, viewers can watch downloaded movies on Amazon Fire devices, Android devices and TVs, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and Apple iOS devices. A press release announcing the launch said the goal is a “simple, seamless digital entertainment experience across platforms.”
UltraViolet, a similar initiative from which Disney has held out for years, also aimed for simple and seamless but has fallen short of that. When it launched in 2011, Warner Bros CEO Kevin Tsujihara conceded that “the product is not perfect today” but added, “We don’t have the luxury of waiting a year until we have everything perfect.”
Six years later, physical disc sales remain in secular decline, according to the Digital Entertainment Group, the industry consortium that tracks revenues and also supports UltraViolet. But areas like electronic sell-through and VOD transactions posted single-digit increases in 2016, the DEG reported. So the question long has been: How can studios protect traditional packaged-goods revenue while also emphasizing digital? The studios’ download-to-own business has been outflanked by the easier-to-use subscription VOD services, from broad-reach ones such as Netflix and Amazon Prime to more movie-oriented movie-niche players like Turner’s FilmStruck.
At launch, the Movies Anywhere library features more than 7,300 digital movie titles, along with previews and film extras from the studios behind such hits as Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Fate of the Furious and War for the Planet of the Apes. For a limited time, new users signing up with the first digital retailers can get digital copies of Ghostbusters (2016) and Ice Age, and with the second digital retail signup, they will get Big Hero 6, Jason Bourne and The Lego Movie.
“Movies Anywhere is a massive step forward for the consumer digital media experience, bringing the incredible film libraries of five studios together in a virtual one-stop movie-watching shop,” said Karin Gilford, GM of the service. “Consumers never have to remember where they purchased a film or which device they can watch it on because all of their eligible movies will be centralized within their Movies Anywhere library and available across platforms.”