Paramount Pictures Inc. is experimenting with a direct-to-viewer Internet streaming video model, by allowing fans to watch film Transformers: Dark of the Moon during its initial DVD release, directly from the Paramount website.
The latest sequel in the hugely popular 'Transformers' franchise is available for direct viewing for $3.99, with a $4.99 HD option for Windows users. Those wanting to take advantage of this offer need to have Windows Silverlight for either version, which prohibits iPad/iPhone users. Viewers get a 48 hour window in which to view the film after paying.
Some have called this move by Paramount a bid to compete with Netflix, while others see the more obvious competitor of such direct interaction between film studios and consumers as being iTunes and Amazon. The reasoning behind this latter (and more reasonable) view is that Netflix generally doesn't stream video during a film or telvision show's initial DVD release.
What is certain, consumers have no lack of choices in the online video streaming game. This summer, Amazon expanded their streaming library to 100k titles, and as well brokered a deal with NBC/Universal to bring new titles to Amazon Prime. Also, Walmart's video site Vudu has stepped up to challenge competitors, iTunes and (the now defunct) Zune.
It makes sense for film studios to move more into providing their own content to the public, rather than relying on online streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu. As the physicality of video playback gives way to digitized versions, video entertainment distribution hubs start to make less sense. We've already seen Netflix lose its partnerhsip with basic cable channel Starz, because Starz wasn't willing to compete with its own Netflix-streamed content.
But Paramount isn't the first film studio to try and cut out the middle-man. Time/Warner Bros. used a similar streaming model on Facebook just this last summer. Yet unlike Warner Bros., Paramount's recent pay-to-play is playing a recently released film.
Paramount has characterized their venture into direct streaming of current titles in terms of "testing the waters." To date, Transformers: Dark of the Moon has grossed over $1 billion. Paramount could not be reached for immediate comment.