DirectTV Offers Premium Video-On-Demand Service

fromKCRW

A new video-on-demand service by DirecTV offers movies to customers just 60 days after their theater release. For subscribers to see Adam Sandler's movie Just Go With it, they'll have to pay $30 for their private screening. Masters is also editor-at-large for the Hollywood Reporter.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Here's a question. How much will consumers pay to see a movie at home if they only have to wait a couple of months after it's come out in the theater? DirecTV announced its subscribers will now be able to watch Adam Sandler's movie "Just Go With It" starting tomorrow, even though it's still in theaters. Of course, it will cost them $30 for the private screening.

Kim Masters is editor-at-large for the Hollywood Reporter, and is here to talk about all this.

Welcome.

Ms. KIM MASTERS (Editor-at-large, Hollywood Reporters): Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Let's start with exactly how this on-demand program works.

Ms. MASTERS: Well, you pay your $30, you get 48 hours. You can watch the Adam Sandler movie, a movie that opened about 60 days ago. And that is shorter than the window that is usually now preserved for movie theaters to play films.

MONTAGNE: But, of course, too, you're talking about two months versus how long would it normally have been before one could have rented that movie?

Ms. MASTERS: Well, normally, it would be about twice that. And what the studios are doing here is looking to figure out how much you'll pay and how long you'll feel that you have to wait and what kind of a movie would be intriguing enough to you to cough up some extra money. It's all part of a big experiment, and that has theater owners very nervous.

MONTAGNE: Right. For the obvious reason. They will, in theory, lose audiences.

Ms. MASTERS: They're afraid that what the studios will do is to train the public to stay home and wait and say, you know, why should I rush out to the theater? I don't have to wait that long. Maybe I'll pay a little extra, but guess what? I pay a lot if I have to hire a babysitter, maybe pay for parking. Maybe I have to pay for the popcorn. That adds up pretty quickly.

Now, this may not work for "Just Go With It" with Adam Sandler, but it may work for something that you have a burning desire to see. Maybe you'll invite your friends over. The studios are trying to make up for lost DVD sales.

DVD sales have been hurt by the recession and things like Netflix and Redbox, where you can, you know, see movies if you wait a little longer, quite cheaply. So they are looking for ways to get more money. And one of the ways they want to do it is to see how much you'll pay to see movies and how quickly you want to see them if you're going to pay that extra money.

MONTAGNE: You know, you mention the theater owners. What about filmmakers? Are they worried about losing what you would call theater-going audiences?

Ms. MASTERS: Absolutely. Some of them are. I mean, James Cameron has signaled that he is not happy about this. Todd Phillips, who directed "The Hangover" and has another film coming over, said at a recent gathering of theater owners that if had wanted to make movies for TV, he would've been a TV movie director.

So there are some directors definitely who are concerned about, A, the theater-going experience, and B, what this will do to the theater business if, in fact, consumers start to, you know, rely on those fancy home theaters they've put in their houses.

MONTAGNE: And presumably, other companies that offer movies-on-demand -Comcast and Time Warner - the challenge for them is to do something similar.

Ms. MASTERS: Absolutely. I mean, Comcast just bought NBC Universal. A lot of people are wondering, you know, Comcast is a cable company. Do they look at Universal and think, we want run a movie studio? Or do they think, we want to get stuff into that cable pipeline faster and get a bigger chunk of the money that people are willing to pay to see that film?

Disney, which is not participating in this, nonetheless has expressed ideas of going ahead and releasing movies-on-demand on the same day that they're released in theaters at some point.

And, of course, Steve Jobs is the biggest shareholder in Disney. He has some interest in digital entertainment. And you can see where Disney might also be looking at this very closely. So that is why the theater owners are so nervous.

MONTAGNE: Kim, thanks very much.

Ms. MASTERS: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Kim Masters hosts The Business on member station KCRW, and is also editor-at-large for the Hollywood Reporter.

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