So here’s the good news: There are more movies available online than ever before. And the bad news: There are also more movie services than ever. What that means for consumers is a hugely fragmented experience, where they never know where one movie is available for purchase or rental, or even if it’s available through a video subscription service like Netflix. With a relaunch of its web site, Time Warner-owned Flixster is looking to help users get at whatever movie they want to see, wherever it’s available.
Time Warner acquired Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes last May, and then made the Flixster website and apps part of its UltraViolet rollout. Unfortunately, reaction to the new Flixster — and the UltraViolet digital rights locker it was linked to — was pretty negative at launch. Flixster has in the last several months worked to improve it, and is launching a site-wide refresh in beta that will take it back to its video discovery roots.
With the UltraViolet launch late last year, Flixster focused mostly on getting users to purchase movies through its own UltraViolet-enabled VOD service. But that’s since changed: In addition to titles available for purchase on Flixster, the site now highlights purchase and rental options from Vudu, Amazon, and iTunes. And it even shows users when movies are available through subscription services like Netflix. That means that pretty much any movie available online can be found on the app — which is big news for movie lovers.
The homepage allows users to view and rate movies, save them to watch later or say they’re not interested. There’s also a number of tools for refining video search. Users can filter results based on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer, as well as the year a film was released. And it lets users really drill down by genre, with a dozen different categories to choose from. Users can also filter down whether or not they want to see movies that are just in wide release, filter out movies they’re not interested in, and only show titles available on Flixster — but who would actually want to do that?
Anyway, just because it’s letting users check out movies on different services doesn’t mean that Flixster isn’t still interested in getting them signed up for UltraViolet. The site has simplified the UltraViolet signup process, with a one-click registration enabled by Facebook Connect. Anyone who joins the new Flixster will receive a free gift movie in their UltraViolet digital locker, and users can earn more movies by performing tasks like downloading the Flixster mobile app or creating a “want-to-see” movie list.
Of course, Flixster isn’t the only video discovery engine out there focused on premium content. There’s Fanhattan, which also hooks into multiple video services, and is available for the iPhone and iPad. In addition to getting the web site redesign out of beta, Flixster is working on a relaunch of its mobile apps, which will bring a lot of the same functionality to those devices.