Facebook is getting into online movie streaming, but it’s testing the waters first with a limited deal to offer just one film: “The Dark Knight.” If the social network finds the waters to be warm, though, it could mean trouble for heavies like Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. Meanwhile, Sprint flirts with T-Mobile, Samsung hints at a new tablet and HP foreshadows a webOS-heavy future.
Video rental stores made it so you don’t have to go all the way to a theater to watch a movie, then online video channels like Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) and iTunes made is so you don’t even have to leave the house. The next step will be that you won’t even have to leave the warm, squishy embrace ofFacebook in order to watch movies on demand.
The social network’s hooked up with Warner Bros. to provide users with streaming videos for a rental fee of three bucks. Just visit the movie’s Facebook profile, pay the toll, and you get access to the film for 48 hours. Watch however many times you want until it expires.
You can’t buy tickets to the show with real money, though. This system runs on the Land of Facebookia’s local currency: Facebook credits. It’s the equivalent of three bucks, but you have to make an exchange first.
For now, the partnership’s very limited — it’s just that one studio, and it’s just one movie: “The Dark Knight.” But Facebook’s membership list is massive, so if this picks up, it could prove to be a very big threat to every other online movie provider out there. One of those is Netflix, though its video-on-demand service isn’t exactly the same — Netflix does unlimited streaming for a flat monthly fee. Facebook’s way of doing business more resembles outfits like iTunes’ or Amazon’s (Nasdaq: AMZN) a-la-carte rental options.
But the structure here might not scale up as easily as with iTunes, Netflix or other providers. With the other guys, a studio just supplies the movie, a blurb, maybe a trailer and some stills, and that’s the way it’s cataloged on that channel’s servers forever more. But the way Facebook’s doing it right now, each movie will have to have its own fan page with a Wall, a discussion board, a photo gallery, so forth. Sounds like a lot of upkeep and maintenance. If a studio’s going to eventually let Facebook do this with the same catalog of thousands of titles that iTunes or Amazon has access to, are they going to need to take on a whole team of interns to keep the hedges trimmed?
Also, it seems that as a viewer, you have to allow the movie’s page to access your basic information and let it post messages to your Wall. So it looks like Facebook isn’t going to be the place to go for your guilty cinematic pleasures, whatever those might be.
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