Hollywood star Al Pacino is not a big fan of watching films on mobile devices. On receiving a Fellowship at the BFI, he said: "If you put any movie on a big screen nowadays, I'll love it. I mean, who wants to watch movies on iPhones? I'm so tired of that." I too love a good night out at the cinema, but he's wrong. Sorry Mr Pacino but millions of people watch films on their mobile devices worldwide, and Video on Demand (VOD) is their preferred choice.
Video on Demand increases revenues
Al Pacino is a legendary actor, a man who has dedicated his life to creating masterpieces of unforgettable cinematography. But his career, and his bank balance, depend on people watching them. The studios must maximise their profits to create enough sustainable revenue to commission new films for him to star in - he should support them as they move with the times, license all their content and accept that the market is moving rapidly away from extended first-release cinema windows and towards swifter release to VOD.
At the BFI, Al Pacino was preaching to the converted and to the millions who were brought up with the cinema experience. Of course, the cinema is something unique and special - he's right about that! But I think we have a tendency to look back at cinema's heyday through rose-tinted glasses. The hard facts are that cinema-going is now at a fraction of its peak in the 1950s and it has a new, fast-growing rival in you and me wanting to watch films when and where we choose; and that means having our videos available when and where we demand. Consumers want choice and they want flexibility. People have a metaphoric megaplex cinema in their hand in the shape of a mobile device and, thankfully for the content creators, they are using it!
There's also a big issue here with age. Younger people are driving the mobile VOD revolution but ironically they're also the primary cinema-going audience, and always have been. So the hypothesis is that people who are going to the cinema to watch his latest movie are the same people interested in watching his films on their mobile devices. There's a Pacino conundrum!
People like watching films on their devices
The main thing many die-hard fans forget is that people actually like watching movies on their mobile device - it's a uniquely personal experience; one which offers total individual control. They can search, discover, navigate and watch suggested content. They can watch what they want, when they want - while they're on the train to work or abroad on holiday. VOD puts them in control.
Service providers are increasingly sophisticated, delivering content through personalised, interactive storefronts using metadata to suggest relevant content or take them straight to most-watched categories. This approach only increases consumer choice and satisfaction, putting new content in front of them and feeding their appetite for Video Everywhere.
The key driver behind this growing trend is the fact that it reflects the way people live their lives. Consumer behaviour is infinitely variable - you might 'binge' on your Saturday lie-in and watch back-to-back episodes of your favourite programme or the Lord of The Rings trilogy whereas others might prefer 'snacking' on the train, watching part of the film on one device and then finishing up the last 45 minutes on a different device when they get home. I'm sure Mr Pacino can see the merit in that concept keeping the royalties rolling in!
And at the same time, consumer electronic devices continue to rapidly evolve, increasingly elevating the consumer experience with larger screens and higher-resolution retina displays. High resolution 4K UHDTV is taking hold and it is just around the corner for mobiles, offering greater film-viewing satisfaction while you're on the move.
The future of film is in The Cloud
Cloud-based IP-delivered content is what people want; everything, everywhere, all the time and within their control. The technology to enable VOD is not new, but what we're seeing at the moment is an acceleration of acceptance by filmmakers and content creators of new commercial and distribution models to proliferate their art form. As with music streaming services such as Spotify, the film industry was initially slow to accept that VOD has changed consumer behaviour forever. Now, however, we're seeing a steady rise in content creators keen to license their films for whatever platforms get their content into the hands of consumers.
This rise has been hastened by a new breed of multi-platform video service providers who work as effective market-makers, licensing and managing the content for the copyright owners, and working with service providers to present the films on every device possible, maximising the content's potential for monetisation. As technology evolves in the coming years, it will only make it easier for film companies to leverage their content - thus creating an even bigger audience for Video Everywhere.
Right now, Al Pacino might not like watching movies on his mobile device but fortunately for him, a growing proportion of his fans know that mobile devices are their preferred way to see his films and in doing so they're unwittingly keeping his royalties rolling in. In time, Al Pacino might change his mind and realise his smartphone really is his smartest bet!