Despite its struggles of late, Netflix is still one of the most popular sources when it comes to online streaming of movies and TV shows. (Although things may change if it’s acquired by Verizon.) For many of us, the Netflix queue is our go-to source for bookmarking films that we’d like to watch at a later date.
One new startup, called Plexus Entertainment, wants to take the Netflix formula and apply it to a broader scale. In the big picture, Plexus’ goal is to connect films and filmmakers with their audiences, so to do that, they’ve launched “Watch It” in public beta to allow users to keep track of movies they’re interested in, where those movies are playing, and to be proactively notified of all the different ways to view those films. Huzzah!
Essentially, it’s a Netflix queue for movies on the Web — for both major studios and indie productions — as Watch It allows users by way of a simple search to find the quickest way to watch their favorite movies, whether they be in theaters, on DVD, Blu-ray, online, or on demand.
Of course, to build this sort of universal bookmarking system for digital content, Watch It is pushing beyond simply being a standalone site, as it is today launching “Watch It” buttons across film sites, including video portals, the websites of filmmakers and film studios, social media pages, fan sites, and industry trade publications, like Variety, as you can see below. (The button is also live on Tribecafilm.com and currently being installed on indiewire.com, filmmakermagazine.com, and more).
From theaters to streaming movies on demand from Amazon Instant Video, VUDU, and iTunes, the Watch It button enables users to create and maintain personalized queues of movies they want to see, with a range of tools for sorting and filtering those movies that they’ve queued. Watch It is also leveraging social networking by allowing users to share their movie choices with friends via Facebook Connect.
While there are umpteen different buttons spread across the Web that allow sharing and self-expression around digital content, Plexus Founder and CEO David Larkin sees Watch It as a first for the movie industry. From the business side, Larkin sees the Watch It button as a potentially valuable direct marketing tool, as Watch It users will be able to receive alerts when movies they are interested in become available on their selected services.
Plexus will also be able to mine and aggregate (non-personally identifiable) consumer data to provide some valuable analytics for movie marketers and promoters. Having worked in the film industry as both a producer and director (he produced “Made In China”, which won the Audience Award at SXSW), Larkin says that the industry remains a fragmented beast, and filmmakers still have no real way of finding out whether their films are reaching their intended audiences — especially for indie producers and filmmakers.
So, for media partners, Larkin thinks that an easily install-able and embeddable button can be a great tool for reader engagement, as well as a source of commerce, whereas for the film industry itself, Watch It could become a unique CRM-like platform.
Traditionally, when reading an online movie review, for example, there’s been no easy way to create action based on that interest, so embedding a Watch It button in a movie review, on blogs or other related content sites, allows readers to click and view all the available options, across digital platforms — or to go buy tickets to see the movie in theaters. Of course, the likelihood is that you won’t be able to watch the whole movie right then and there, which is where the Watch It queue comes in, allowing you to watch a trailer, but save full viewing for later in “wish lists”. The site will then send you email notifications when a movie has transitioned from theaters to Netflix or On-demand, as the app is updated throughout the movie’s release cycle.
In terms of future applications, as one might imagine, Larkin sees potential for the Watch It model in music, TV, books, video games, and beyond.
Larkin said that some film industry execs have expressed anxiety over the Watch It formula potentially cannibalizing ticket sales — something that scares the bajeebus out of a stodgy industry. But the CEO is convinced that his model will put Watch It in “the catbird seat” to watch as legacy cash flows transition to a home theater experience, where channels like Blu-ray players have higher profit margins. Inevitably, he says, although the theatrical movie channel will remain important for a long time to come, the industry is going to move fully into an IP-delivered framework, which certainly sounds like something you’d hear from Reed Hastings.
The truth is, when you hear about an indie film at, say, a film festival, there’s a lot of initial buzz created around the movie. Of course, it may then take months for the film to reach theaters, and in the meantime, it loses the attention of most of its audience. Filmmakers have to start, then, from scratch when marketing their film, and it if its operating on an indie budget, there’s likely not much allocated for marketing spend.
Whether or not “Watch It” wins the day is not important, but certainly services that offer consumers better ways to stay up to date on a film’s release cycle and give them one-click tools by which to queue and stream their favorite content is a no-brainer.
Check it out and let us know what you think.