September will mark a milestone for Starz On Demand, with the debut of The Incredibles Sept. 15 — well in advance of the movie’s Sept. 24 debut on the linear Starz service.
Though it started premiering movies via subscription video on demand early this summer, the box office gross for The Incredibles ($261 million) is far higher than the other movies Starz On Demand has debuted to date, so officials at the network will monitor very closely how the movie performs.
The art of balancing returns for the SVOD platform and the traditional Starz channel is a delicate process. Although the network doesn’t live and die by the ratings, viewership and usage remains important to the linear Starz premium channel.
But usage on the VOD platform is also important, particularly now, as the on-demand world is largely uncharted, said Jerry Maglio, executive vice president of marketing.
“A lot of operators are still struggling to get people to use on demand,” Maglio said. “All the research concluded consumers just want the ability to make choices on their schedule, but they don’t always do it. We’ve concluded that you can keep telling them the message, and you’ll only go so far. People go after the programming they want to see. Programming is a driver.”
Starting Sept. 15, Starz will run promos that will announce to viewers: “If you want to watch The Incredibles now, it’s on Starz on Demand.”
Throughout September, Starz will carry 938 tune-in spots for The Incredibles. More than a third of those adds will specifically promote the fact that the movie is available on demand, before its linear premiere.
The goal is to capture the 50% of the audience that isn’t using on demand, Maglio said.
Starz launched a separate feed for Starz On Demand systems earlier this year, so only on-demand subscribers will see the “call to action” promotions. “We want to provide instant gratification,” Maglio said.
The move could result in lower ratings for the linear network. And ratings are important, Maglio said, even for a premium network because it shows executives how their fare and packages stack up against other networks. “We use it as a guide,” he said.
“But this business isn’t about ratings alone,” he said. “It’s about usage. It’s about satisfaction. We’re promoting Starz in every way you can enjoy it.”