The distribution and consumption of films has seismically changed over the last couple of years with new products or services coming to market nearly every month with their next exciting offering.
As we know, it started with iTunes and YouTube changing the way we bought or rented and then watched films, either being downloaded or streamed directly to computers and laptops. With the advent of faster home broadband and playback technology becoming ubiquitous, the market became busier with Netflix, LoveFilm, Google Play and Apple TV streaming films on-demand directly to TVs, games consoles or mobile devices. The market has carried on increasing with new services focused on apps for Smart TVs or mobile apps including ACE-Trax, Ultra-Violet, Hulu Plus and Vudu.
Similarly UK broadcasters have produced apps allowing their content to be watched directly on smartphones and tablets. BBC iPlayer app allows for both on-demand as well as downloadable content, along with Sky Go, Channel 4’s 4OD and Channel 5’s Demand 5 apps. Sky’s memberships allows for 2 mobile devices to be associated with 1 membership. Interestingly Sky and Channel 4 do not allow you to attach the mobile device to a TV to watch the content on the app. For Sky this of course stops the device becoming an alternative set up box but there is a lot of noise on their forums from their customers wanting to change this restriction.
With the growth of digital technology, existing film distribution practices are under review. Cinemas are undergoing a massive process of digitisation. Broadcasting services have evolved as a result of several technological developments: the switchover to digital, IPTV and the advent of over the top audiovisual services and internet connected TV enable consumers to access more and more non-linear services.
In addition, developments in consumer equipment have enabled people to access and create content anywhere anytime using mobile devices (tablets, laptops, smartphones).
In this complex and increasingly competitive landscape, content formats will be expected to evolve as well as the models of distribution. But the content filling these new channels is all very similar, mostly US Hollywood movies alongside a scattering of mainstream UK and non English language films. The most adventurous films you will currently find will be Berberian Sound Studio or 360. But what if we want more than a diet of these movies?
A new and exciting player to the landscape comes from the art-house cinema chain Curzon with their Curzon On-Demand service. Curzon On-Demand is on the web and digital platforms including Samsung’s SmartTV, with selected films on The Guardian’s digital platforms. Curzon On Demand presents ‘high-quality films’ on digital platforms for customers to watch when and where they want to, aiming to offer a true Home Cinema experience. Customers can see the same film programme they could experience in a public cinema, at the same time. Curzon On-Demand’s new releases are augmented by complementary titles from the same director and/or featuring the same actors or themes or genres, as well as Q&As with the actors and directors.
I have greedily used this new service and although I have experienced some user experience and technical problems, overall it has been a fantastic new film experience for my household. What is great is that I can watch some of the same films that Curzon have on public release without stepping out into the snow and cold as well as access to library to some of Europe’s best films. Issues that do need addressing include, you cannot watch films at HD quality, which is a slight contradiction because of the investment to put into digitalising cinemas, and some films have a playback issue with some of them returning to the beginning when you are well into the film.
Curzon On-Demand has been supported with a grant of €400,000 from MEDIA Programme Video on Demand & Digital Cinema Distribution fund. The fund’s main objective is to support the creation and exploitation of catalogues of European works to be distributed digitally across borders to a wider audience and/or to cinema exhibitors through advanced distribution services, integrating where necessary digital security systems in order to protect online content.
Other projects they have been funded by Video on Demand & Digital Cinema Distribution fund are medici.tv (on-demand classical music), filmin (dedicated to Spanish films) and EuroVoD is a European federation of Video on Demand platforms (specialising in independent cinema).
The future of the distribution and consumption of films at home will carry on radically changing, and we’ll be in the audience.