Today's guest post is by Michael Dresner, CEO of Brand Squared, a Division of Peppercom.
“Content Is King.” – Sumner Redstone
Desperately trying to read entertainment news that wasn’t about William and Kate, I found articles this week about a new Kevin Spacey television series called "House Of Cards," directed by David Fincher (Oscar-nominated director of last year’s marvelous The Social Network). The memorable point of most articles is that the series will be distributed exclusively through Netflix.
The first thing I thought of when I saw the Netflix distribution concept was AMC Movie Theaters’ 'Fork and Screen' concept- enthusiastically reviewed on Repman’s sibling blog Measuring Up. The two strategies have a lot in common.
Both are in the business of feature film distribution. Both are surrounded by traditional and digital competition. Both have seen behemoths in their industry (Blockbuster) rapidly fade into irrelevance from behemoth status. And, both are creating innovative experiences that ideally keep consumers returning, paying premium fees, and recommending to others.
AMC Movie Theaters is offering lobster ravioli, loaded potato skins and pints of beer. The waiters bring food to your seats. Netflix– which could have developed an alliance with any restaurant or packaged food company in the U.S.– decided to place their bets instead on Kevin Spacey.
I am a movie fanatic. I have been to going to movie theaters near and far for decades. Yet when
I think about the most satisfying film experiences, I never think of the food (though I frequently pay more for that than the ticket). I think about great scenes from movies like "The Usual Suspects." "L.A. Confidential." Glengarry Glen Ross." "American Beauty." Great movies featuring Kevin Spacey.
The fact is, I can get lobster ravioli and Sam Adams anywhere. But I can’t get "House Of Cards" unless I become a subscriber to Netflix.
Netflix’ strategy seems new but it’s not. HBO figured out two decades ago that showing first-run movies alongside Showtime and Cinemax wasn’t a sustainable way to keep subscribers. HBO developed original programming, such as the phenomenal “Larry Sanders Show” in the early 1990s. It took a while for the channel to find its footing in this space. But once The Sopranos and The Wire hit our zeitgeist, HBO had leverage to increase their fees by 20%. And they did.
So why would AMC Movie Theaters focus on restaurant-style food– a product they will never master (apologies to Measuring Up – when they have the capability to invest in original content– product they have been presenting for years? I’m not sure film lovers will go out of their way to find a theater with lobster ravioli. I know I would go out of my way if AMC had a lock on a movie made by Kevin Spacey and David Fincher (or, for people 30 years my junior, Justin Bieber).
AMC’s 'Fork and Screen' concept sounded interesting. But as a business decision I have to give it two thumbs down. They will never own a lock on dinner the way Netflix will with House Of Cards.
As a footnote, Sumner Redstone ran a regional movie theater chain for most of his career. He is now the Chairman of Viacom and CBS, two companies that peak and valley with ad sales but lives and die by original content.