Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Digital Movie Rentals at a Discount: MSpot's Interesting–And Confusing–New Pitch

Netflix does a brisk business selling subscriptions to its all-you-can-eat online video service. But one-off digital video rentals still haven’t really taken off yet.

Here’s a pitch that combines both models in one service: Cloud media startup mSpot is offering a “Movies Club,” which lets members rent multiple–but not unlimited–movies per month, at a discount from what they’d cost a la carte.

MSpots’s movies, which are already available as one-off rentals, work on a variety of platforms, including Apple iOS devices and Google’s Android.

Which sounds interesting, but mSpot is going to have a difficult time explaining it to their customers. There are multiple subscription tiers, starting at $4.99 a month, but it’s impossible for a subscriber to know in advance how many movies that entitles them to, since that will vary depending on the titles they rent.

And the savings over conventional rentals are never going to be mammoth. Apple’s iTunes, for instance, rents “The Social Network” for $3.99, and mSpot club members can get it for $3.00. That’s nice, but it may not be enough for someone to make a monthly commitment.

Meanwhile, Hollywood itself hasn’t completely embraced the idea. MSpot has a catalog of about 1,200 movies for its conventional rental service, from most of the big studios with the exception of News Corp.’s Fox (News Corp. also owns this Web site).

But only half of those titles are available for club discounts. Disney and Viacom’s Paramount are the only big studios signed on so far.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik