In April 2020, Amazon came up with an update that allowed Apple iOS users to buy or rent movies directly from the Amazon Prime Video App. While Amazon was not very vocal about the change, many people were left wondering about the possible reasons for this. Perceptions changed and people were left with questions like,” Is it better to rent a movie than to opt for a full platform subscription?”
To answer this question, it becomes imperative to look at some relevant monetisation models followed by most OTT services in India. They are the:
1. SVOD or Subscription Video on Demand
This option offers viewers access to a huge content pool consisting of different and varied genres. A viewer has to sign up for a monthly, quarterly or annual subscription and they gain unlimited access to movies, web series, news, music etc.
SVOD is extremely popular as evident from its ever-upward trajectory. It offers different subscription tiers thereby delivering higher revenues and making this plan quite enticing for the viewers. Some OTT services working on this monetization model are Amazon Prime, Netflix, HBO Now, HULU etc. The pandemic restrictions saw viewers take up multiple subscriptions to get access to varied popular content.
Some viewer advantages include:
- Flexible subscription offers
- Access to exclusive content
2. TVOD or Transactional Video on Demand
Herein viewers are charged for every single watch they opt for every single time. This monetization model also goes by the names of PPV or pay-per-view or PPD or pay-per-download. The USP of this model is its immediacy. Consumers get access to recently launched movies or web series quickly. They only have to either buy or rent them.
As a business proposition, it offers excellent benefits but it is yet to gain its deserved popularity. However, viewers are waking up to the fact that they can rent-a-movie without having to subscribe to a full OTT platform just to watch it. Some examples of OTT services following this monetization model are Google Play, iTunes, VUDU, CinemaNow, AppleTV etc. Advantages of TVOD for viewers include:
- Faster access to exclusive content
- Flexibility to pay for only what they watch
- Offers an inexpensive alternative
The understanding and advantages of the TVOD model will become clearer as the concept of rent-a-movie is elaborated upon in the next section.
What is Rent-A-Movie?
Historically, renting a movie meant physically going to a store. Currently, online streaming has set new standards for renting or purchasing movies. Most OTT services come equipped with a huge catalogue of English, Hindi and Regional language digital films. Herein, viewers pay for the movie they want to rent rather than subscribing to a full OTT platform.
The concept of rent-a-movie got a boost during the pandemic imposed lockdown. With theatres and movie halls also closed, most studios and production houses started releasing and renting out brand new movies on the OTT streaming platforms. The viewer could now enjoy all the latest releases right from the comfort of their homes. They also spend less than what they would have to when going to watch a movie in the theatres.
Viewers also had the option to buy a movie. However, rentals were cheaper. However, it had a glitch. Rentals came with an expiry period and hence the movie could only be watched once. When purchased the movie could be procured for unlimited viewing.
The choice, thus, lies with the viewer; if he wants to watch a movie multiple times; he needs to buy else rent it. There are websites such as PhunFlix that ensure you have the choice to pay only for the movie you wish to watch and not pay for an entire subscription period. Rent a movie offers viewers some significant benefits like:
- Access to an almost unlimited supply of movies
- Faster discovery of movie titles
- Cost-effectiveness as rentals are inexpensive and the viewer is also not subjected to penalties for late returns
Rent-A-Movie vs. Full OTT Platform Subscription
Both concepts have their intrinsic values. Both have different viewer niches and fulfil different needs of people.
For example, people who opt for the full subscription of OTT services in India, gain access to a plethora of popular, original and exclusive content. They can watch premium content from anywhere at any time without being bound by programming schedules.
Full subscription OTT content or SVOD content can be watched over multiple devices at no extra costs. Thus, different people living in the same house can watch different genres of content at the same time using different smart devices like Smartphones, Smart TVs, Tablets, laptops etc.
If a full platform subscription provides viewers with almost all benefits why should they rent-a-movie? The answer is very simple. Today there are many different OTT platforms, each service going all out to ensure the procurement of quality content exclusive to the OTT platform.
Thus to be able to watch the whole gamut of movies or web series being released, individual viewers will have to subscribe to all possible OTT platforms or miss out on some popular content.
The concept of rent-a-movie or TVOD offers viewers a cost-effective option wherein they pay only for the web or TV series or movie they want to watch. Currently, the pay-per-view concept is still in its nascent stages. Viewers have started to question the concept of paying for content they have no interest in watching. Paying for only what they want to view serves its purpose.
Be it a live event or a sporting match that needs to be watched in real-time, the pay-per-view concept makes it possible. Viewers have access to on-going action for the time the event is being held and lose access the moment it finishes in case of live events.
Concept wise, rent-a-movie and full platform subscription are different but both flow back to similar originating ideas. Both empower viewers to watch content not available in the freemiums offered by the different OTT services in India. However, they differ in content that is offered and the monetization model as mentioned earlier.
With on-demand services or when viewers subscribe to an OTT service, they have more control over where, how and when to watch the content. They can pause, rewind, fast forward and skip content.
However, rent-a-movie comes with a time limit that users have no choice but to maintain. If they are unable to watch it within the time limit, the rights are annulled. Of course, viewers can purchase the movie and watch it as per convenience but it is costly.
Hybrid Model is Best For The Viewer
It would be wrong to say rent-a-movie is better than VOD or vice versa. For the viewer, benefits can only be maximised by following a multi-tiered revenue model. Here, the viewers have the option to choose whether they want to opt for a full platform subscription or they want to rent-a-movie.
With content costs soaring, the Hybrid model offers viewers flexibility in terms of both pricing and content. Subscription fatigue can be kept at bay and viewers gain freedom and flexibility to build their customised viewing package.
Today’s viewer likes choices and the multi-tiered model offers just that. Hence, it is best for OTT service providers in India to take notice and stop warring over which service facility is better.