As independent theaters queued up to commit to screening North Korea's current least favorite movie ever, The Interview, Sony announced that the movie will also be available to stream online via several streaming outlets including YouTube, Google Play (NASDAQ: GOOG), and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Xbox Video, beginning Christmas Eve. What's more, Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) is reportedly interested in making the movie available to its subscribers soon.
"As of 10:00 a.m. PST, the film will be available to rent in HD on Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft's Xbox Video and the dedicated website www.seetheinterview.com at a price of $5.99. The film can also be purchased in HD for $14.99," Sony Pictures said in a statement released to the press, as reported by Business Insider.
The Interview, of course, made North Korea's naughty list several weeks ago due to its premise, in which two hapless reporters are tasked by the CIA to assassinate the leader of the isolated state. That led to an extremely damaging hack of Sony's servers, the release of reams of confidential information, the leaking of digital copies of its upcoming movies, and ultimately the cancellation of The Interview's release after several threats. The hackers remain unidentified, although Sony and the U.S. government have pointed the finger directly at North Korea.
While the drama around the movie is already at a fever pitch, what's interesting is that Sony has--whether deliberately or out of necessity--taken a strategy that Netflix head of content Ted Sarandos has been espousing as the future of theatrical and VOD for several months now.
In late September, Netflix inked a deal with The Weinstein Co. to release its upcoming sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon both in IMAX theaters and on the SVOD service the same day.
Sarandos explained the rationale behind the simultaneous release at the recent UBS 42nd Annual Global Media and Communications Conference, saying that it's unfair for movie studios to make audiences wait five months for a VOD release of a film they want to see. The market is changing to meet consumer demand to watch content anytime and anywhere they want. "That is absolutely happening because that's what people love," he said.
Call it a fortunate accident or a genius marketing strategy, but either way, Sony is about to test the viability of a same-day VOD release, months ahead of Netflix's plan to do the same.
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