Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Warner and Redbox Settle Up; Consumers Will Wait to Watch

Redbox, which looked like a major problem for Hollywood a few months ago, may be a little more palatable after all.

The movie studios have worried that Redbox’s $1-a-day rental model, which now accounts for nearly one out every $5 spent on DVDs, undercut every other revenue stream they had. But several big studios–including Sony (SNE), Lionsgate (LGF), Disney (DIS) and Paramount, a unit of Viacom (VIA)–have figured out how to live the company.

Meanwhile, three others–Time Warner’s (TWX) Warner Bros., News Corp.’s (NWS) 20th Century Fox and GE’s (GE) NBC Universal–have been fighting Redbox in court.

Make that two others. Warner Bros. just announced a settlement with Redbox. And given Warner’s size and clout, you have to wonder how much longer the two other studios will need to keep fighting.

This settlement looks an awful lot like the one that Warner and Netflix agreed to earlier this year. Which is to say: Warner got pretty much what it wanted–protection of its 28-day DVD sales “window”–and the other side argues that it’s okay, really.

The theory is that by giving up the ability to get movies to consumers right away, Redbox saves money on the DVDs it does get and will have access to a wider selection. Redbox also says this will help the company if its wants to get into digital distribution. Though unlike Netflix (NFLX), Redbox is a long away from being a plausible player in digital.

But make no mistake. This is a costly window and one that Redbox wouldn’t agree to unless the studios had regained the upper hand. From Pali Research’s Rich Greenfield, via a clairvoyant note (title: “It’s Not Easy Being Redbox, with 2010 Set to Get Even More Challenging; Provides Hope For Movie Biz”):

While Redbox management declined to answer a question related to whether there business would be impacted by 10% from a 30-day window (that Redbox agreed to and stopped pursuing workarounds), we believe 10% is far too low. Redbox relies on the new-release business, if it did not, it would not be suing three studios. We suspect the impact is closer to 35-50% than 10% (albeit Redbox’s cost per DVD would come down), particularly as once a window is established the studios will spend heavily to hammer home to consumers that movies are available other places before Redbox (which generate higher gross profit dollars to the studio per transaction than via Redbox).



Companies Agree to 28-Day Window for DVD and Blu-ray Titles

BURBANK, Calif. And OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill, February 16, 2010 – Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group and redbox today announced a new multi-year distribution agreement that will make Warner Bros. new release DVD and Blu-ray titles available to redbox customers after a 28-day window. The agreement also marks the end of the lawsuit that redbox filed against Warner Home Video in August 2009.

“We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to sit down with redbox and negotiate an arrangement that benefits both parties and allows us to continue making our films available to redbox customers,” said Kevin Tsujihara, president, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group. “The 28-day window enables us to get the most from the sales potential of our titles and maximize VOD usage.”

The new arrangement provides redbox with reduced product costs, sufficient quantities of product and optimal stock levels four weeks after street date as well as extends redbox’s access to Blu-ray titles, which redbox is currently testing in select markets. The agreement also provides Warner Bros. the opportunity to maximize the sales of new release titles as well as video on demand and other forms of digital distribution.

“This agreement enables redbox to fulfill our commitment to providing consumers affordable and convenient home entertainment,” said Mitch Lowe, president, redbox. “By agreeing to a delayed release date, redbox can now acquire Warner Home Video titles at a reduced product cost, preserving value for our consumers and increasing customer access to Warner titles at redbox locations nationwide.”

Warner Home Video and redbox will be implementing delayed availability during the month of March and will reach a four-week window by March 23 with the release of The Blind Side. The new agreement will run through January 31, 2012. Redbox has also agreed to destroy Warner Home Video content following its lifespan in kiosks.

“The 28-day window for redbox balances the economics of our relationship while continuing to offer great value to their customers,” said Ron Sanders, president, Warner Home Video. “This accord establishes a mutually beneficial relationship that will foster an ongoing and productive partnership.”

Warner Bros. is currently a leader in many home video categories including total video (DVD and Blu-ray combined), Theatrical Catalog video, TV on DVD, and Blu-ray and will ensure the DVD rental company access to sufficient quantities of Warner Home Video titles including The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Box, The Informant!, Where the Wild Things Are, The Blind Side, and Sherlock Holmes.

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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