Warner Bros. announced Tuesday that it will offer movies directly for rent or purchase through Facebook, becoming the first Hollywood studio to introduce a video-on-demand service on the world's largest social network. So far, only one title is available for rent—Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight—but Warner says it will roll out more films in the coming months.
Will other major studios follow suit and make Facebook a destination for streaming movies?
There's no question that other studios—Fox, Sony, Universal—will come running to join Facebook—but only if Warner Bros. finds success. Warner's service is in its nascent stages (They couldn't start with more than one movie? Really?), and it's too early to say whether Facebook's nearly 600 million users are interesting in watching movies in the same place they upload photos and stalk their friends.
Do you remember when YouTube launched its own movie-on-demand service? Neither do we, because YouTube didn't do enough to distinguish the service from the overwhelming amount of user-generated content on the site. In other words, YouTube has failed to become a destination for Hollywood movies. Facebook, which is already feature-laden, might face a similar issue.
After all, why would users want to rent or buy films through Facebook or YouTube? Is it that much more convenient to watch films there instead of on iTunes or Amazon or Netflix or Hulu—the established player in the industry?
Yes, according to Warner. "Making our films available through Facebook is a natural extension of our digital distribution efforts," said Thomas Gewecke, president of the studio's digital distribution. "It gives consumers a simple, convenient way to access and enjoy our films."
Yet with rentals costing $3, or 30 Facebook credits, Warner is not offering much to differentiate its service from other competing movie sites.
Still, that's not to say Facebook doesn't have the potential to become a destination for Hollywood movies-on-demand. Netflix, which long ago folded its social networking platform, is interested in relaunching the service with Facebook integration. Hulu already embeds some of its content on the social network. And if Warner Bros. manages to expand its library online, other studios might be interested in joining Facebook as well.
Plus, with hundreds of millions of users, anything is possible, right?
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