As I Was Saying

Miramax-Facebook Deal Escalates OTT Stakes with Hulu in the Wings

8/23/2011 9:02 PM

As if the Over-The-Top video landscape weren’t already complicated enough, recent deals and the expected sale of Hulu promise to create an even more complex battlefield for the eyes and dollars of video consumers.

“Miramax eXperience” debuted yesterday on Facebook, streaming initially about 20 titles, including No Country for Old Men, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and Chicago for about $3 each (30 Facebook credits). By noon Tuesday, the App had registered more than 18,000 “likes,” although that doesn’t necessarily equate to how many viewers actually rented movies via the Facebook connection.

The Miramax deal is Facebook’s largest movie rental relationship with Hollywood; smaller libraries are available via Facebook from Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros. In announcing the deal, Miramax pointed out that more than 50 million Facebook users mention a Miramax film in their profiles, supporting the assault on integration of social media with content distribution.

Miramax’s vision is the allow customers to rent and store films in “their own cloud-based digital locker,” according to Miramax CEO Mike Lang. Facebook viewers can look at their movies via TV sets, computers or mobile handsets.
Of course, the limited selection of titles, none newer than three years old, limits the value of such services. But it’s a reminder of Hollywood’s obsession with testing alternative delivery platforms. Miramax has deals with Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and Apple for digital distribution.

Meanwhile, Hulu’s next phase may surface tomorrow, with the expected deadline for bids on the company. Google, Yahoo, Amazon and DirecTV are believed to be among the bidders, with The Wall Street Journal suggesting that the price could be up to $2 billion. Whoever wins - and whatever they do with the service - this is a heady moment for the OTT category.
ComScore’s July Video Matrix released yesterday, showed hefty growth for online video viewing. About 180 million Internet users - 86% of the U.S. online audience - watched a total of 6.9 billion sessions last month, a record. That’s 18.5 hours per person.

And that means money. More than 5 billion video ads were viewed online in July, equating to 2.4 billion minutes of commercial viewing. Almost 50% of the total U.S. population watched online ads, according to comScore. Hulu had the highest ad duration: 409 million minutes.

While online viewing still overwhelmingly skews toward short-form programs (such as YouTube videos), the comScore report showed significant viewing of professionally produced niche programs on the YouTube platform. Machinima reached 16.9 million viewers, who watched up to 1.2 hours during the month; Maker Studio attracted 11.4 viewers and Demand Media drew 15.2 million viewers during the month.

Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications LLC in Bethesda, MD, and a long-time interactive TV enthusiast. Reach him at GArlen@ArlenCom.com