Reports have been circulating recently of Netflix’s plan to launch a streaming-only plan (Los Angeles Times, 10/20/10) and Redbox looking for a partner to help launch a streaming effort (LAT, 10/28/10), both for customers who feel they have no need of any discs whatsoever. Couple that with this trend story (LAT 10/19/10) about consumer behavior increasingly shifting to emphasize renting over buying, whether we’re talking about physical discs or on-demand, and the question has to be asked: How will movie marketing change when we live in a fully on-demand world?
This question might be limited to the home video market, but the it’s increasingly common for movies to get simultaneous theatrical and on-demand releases. Barry Munday and other recent titles from Magnolia and a couple other distributors have been available on-demand at the same time as they receive a limited theatrical run. And this week’s Nice Guy Johnny from Edward Burns is forgoing theatrical release completely and is available immediately either on-demand through cable providers, on iTunes for rental or purchase and as a physical DVD, again for either renting or owning.
What Burns has done for Johnny is, I think, indicative of what’s going to happen when movies are available through online outlets. He’s been out there beating the bushes to raise awareness and spur interest himself since he lacks a studio’s usual support mechanism. And since he’s built up a personal brand (yes, I’m going to go play in traffic after using that phrase) he has been able to leverage the fanbase he’s built up over the last 15 years to promote this new movie.
More importantly, all of that press has the potential to pay off in immediate action on the consumer end because the movie is available, as Burns has often intoned, everywhere and in whatever home viewing format people prefer. So if someone sees him on “The Today Show” (where he appeared the morning of 10/27/10) and is interested in the movie they have the opportunity to turn that interest in to action by going to their computer and searching iTunes or checking out the VOD options during the next commercial break.
That’s where the future of marketing in an on-demand world lies. Whether we’re talking about a “Today Show” interview or a profile on a niche interest group website, the availability of the movie at that particular moment makes all the difference. Connecting the marketing and the ability of the audience to take immediate action is going to be extraordinarily important.
Even today, that importance is evident by looking at examples of that connection not being made. Word-of-mouth might be great for a small movie that is just loved by those who see it. But if the people they’re talking to don’t live in one of the 12 markets that it’s been released theatrically to the hearers are unable to complete the circuit. But as more of these movies move to hybrid or strictly on-demand/home video release patterns that barrier will fall and we’ll see more success stories where these releases are able to find their audience strictly because the audience was able to act on their interest and find the movie.