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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Open Rights Group reports of state of VOD in the UK | Can't look now: finding film online

Can't look now: finding film online

By Peter Bradwell on Oct 19, 2011. Comments (6)

(Written with Jag Bahra)

Excerpt from a long & detailed post on OpenRightsGroup:

"Last week YouTube announced the opening of its movie rental service. This could be great news for film lovers, offering easy access to the films they want to watch. Exactly how useful this is to consumers depends somewhat on how many films are available through the service.

The availability of legal content online has featured heavily in discussions about the digital economy, most recently in the ongoing roundtables, hosted by the Minister Ed Vaizey MP, about new website blocking powers over sites involved in copyright infringement. The question is whether consumers' demand for films, music and other goods is being satisfied.

ORG, and others such as Consumer Focus, believe that more attention needs to be paid to how well the markets for films and music are serving consumers before we assume that certain kinds of enforcement measures are necessary and proportionate. We want to see thriving and innovative cultural markets that help creators and consumers get the best out of new technology.

In this context, and against the backdrop of the recent injunction won by the film industry that requires BT to block the website Newzbin2, we decided to have a look at the availability of films online. We looked at how many of the recent best-sellers and catalogues of critically acclaimed films, including the top 50 British films, consumers can legally buy or rent online. We searched five content providers, and looked at rental and purchasing prices, and compared them with DVD availability and prices.

Our experience points to a lack of availability, poor pricing and quality issues when compared with physical media. In short, we found a situation that indicates serious problems with the licensing of films for online providers. (See bottom of the post for more on what we did and tables of what we found.)

Poor availability

Given the scope of our work and the way catalogues available in these services frequently change, these results should be seen as indicative only. They point at the questions policy makers should be asking about cultural markets online.  What they indicate is not good news for consmers. Anybody who has tried renting or buying films online will probably be unsurprised at what we found.

DVDs are available for just shy of 100% of the films. But a wealth of British cultural history is simply not available through legal providers. Only 43% of the top 50 British films can be bought or rented online. Similarly, only 58% of the BAFTA Best Film award winners since 1960 have been made available.

The situation looks worse if iTunes is discounted. Excluding iTunes, only 27% of the BAFTA award winners are available, with 29% of the best British films. Only 6% of the best 50 British films are on Film4 OD or Virgin Media, with 14% available through a LoveFilm subscription and 4% through pay per view on LoveFilm.

Availability is better for recent best selling releases, but it is still very patchy. Some 86% of the best selling films on in August 2011 can be bought on iTunes, but only 63% on blinkbox. There are few other means to purchase digital versions of films online. Furthermore, purchasing films on blinkbox for the most part means purchasing unlimited access to a stream. Only some are available to download, and for PCs only, meaning access is, for many, dependent on blinkbox's continued existence.

Rental services fare worse – 64% of the films are available to rent on iTunes, 18% are available on Lovefilm pay-per-view, 55% on blinkbox and 41% on Film4 OD and Virgin Media.

Price and quality

Digital prices do not compare favourably to those of DVDs. For the best selling DVDs from August 2011 the average price was £6.80. For iTunes purchases, of the films available through it's service, the average price was £8.88. For blinkbox purchases the price stood at £9.49.

Of the 14 of the 49 best British films available to purchase on iTunes, the average price is £6.56, while for DVDs the average price is £6.63. DVD prices for the BAFTA winning films average at £5.84, whilst on iTunes the average price stands at £6.72. For the 7 of those films available on blinkbox, the average price is £5.70.

The quality of films available online also does not compare well with physical media. Standard definition tends to be just short of DVD quality across the content providers. HD film purchases and rental are available on iTunes only, with 45.5% of the best selling DVDs from August available to buy (at an average of £11.59) and 40.9% to rent (at an average of £4.49)..."

Read the full post here:

Posted via email from Siobhan O'Flynn's 1001 Tales

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