On the heels of rumors that Facebook's long-awaited multibillion IPO is likely to land in late May, is news that Lionsgate will become the first major studio to launch a feature film, in this case the thriller Abduction, on the social networking site on the same day as it releases the film for sale on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download.
The movie, starring Taylor Lautner, will be available for a 48-hour window for $3.99 to Facebook users, said the studio. Lionsgate has opted to forgo Facebook credits, of which the company keeps a 30-percent cut, instead giving customers the option to use PayPal or a credit card.
Facebook users will be able to comment on the movie as they watch it, with their comments available later to friends who rent the flick. Lionsgate also will include exclusive footage of an interview with Lautner for Facebook users. Finally, Lionsgate will include pop-up boxes during the film that feature quotes from the scene, or clips of the scene that users can copy and post.
Making a movie available day-and-date has been bandied about in the industry for the past couple of years. The immense popularity of a site like Facebook, which currently has more than 800 million subscribers, makes it an easy marketing tool that Hollywood is increasingly eager to embrace.
Lionsgate, in fact, highlighted that aspect when it made its announcement.
"Basically, we'll get [viewers'] emails," Anne Parducci, executive vice-president of marketing at Lionsgate, told the Financial Times. "We already know who our fans of the [Facebook] page are, but we don't have a direct to consumer relationship with them."
The Lionsgate experiment builds on other trials that studios have initiated with Facebook over the past year. The company has worked with Warner Bros., Miramax, and has deals in place for some catalog TV content as well.
And while the deal makes it clear that Facebook will be competing head-to-head with competitors like Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX), Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Vudu, it also underlines the challenge that connected TVs and connected devices pose to the pay-TV industry.
Content providers like Lionsgate can take their product direct to the consumer, a bigger potential audience than any other service, pay-TV or subscription movie service can match. They set the price, they can potentially collect a broad array of data about their audience, and they can make one, big deal. Needless to say, the social aspect of the Facebook deal also is unrivaled.
Dean Alms, vice-president of marketing at Milyoni, the California-based company that makes social entertainment software for studios, said the deal is an indication that "movie studios are going from awareness to adoption." It may also be an indication that pay-TV providers VOD businesses may have yet another competitor, one with a big war chest that soon will be getting bigger.--Jim