Walt Disney Co. and Sony Pictures Entertainment are currently testing a new business model in South Korea, the world's eighth-largest film market, which sells on-demand rentals for movies while they're still playing in theaters.
The Wall Street Journal reports the two major American studios have been testing this model with titles such as Sony's Django Unchained, which was available to rent three weeks after its South Korean premiere in April; and Disney's Wreck-It Ralph and Brave, which were available to rent five and four weeks after their premiere dates, respectively.
Such a model has historically been met with resistance from large U.S. cinema chains, such as Regal and AMC, which typically get 90-day exclusive windows during which studios cannot make their films available for home viewing. That window, which can be as long as 120 days, is designed to drive more customers into theaters.
The last time Disney experimented with an on-demand model for films was in Portugal in 2011, with Tangled. Sony, Warner Bros., Universal, and 20th Century Fox all experimented with video on-demand via DirecTV that year, offering steep $30 rentals for films that were 60 days out from their original theatrical releases.
South Korea could prove itself a promising video-on-demand (VOD) test bed market for Disney and Sony, and perhaps more major studios, thanks in part to the country's widespread access to fast Internet connections, which promotes video-on-demand consumption. Though it's still too early to tell how much potential this model holds, it could suggest a way to curb the rampant piracy that South Korea's widespread Internet access also fosters by making a legal streaming option both easy and affordable: VOD rentals in the new model cost around $9, not $30, compared to a normal $3.50 online or cable rental, as the Journal notes.