More film studios consider distribution on social networks

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The Independent Culture

At the 2011 Media Summit in New York (March 9-10), a representative of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment said the company was considering the use of Facebook and other methods for the digital distribution of film titles.

"I think it's a great first step to begin what eventually turns into more social distribution of titles," said John Calkins with Sony's global digital department about the Warner Bros. announcement on March 7 that The Dark Knight would be temporarily available for $3 on Facebook.

Adding that the company was looking into social media outlets, Calkins said, "but it's early days." He also suggested that the posting of theatrical trailers could include "buy" buttons soon, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Other panelists suggested that the film offers on social networks are likely to happen a few weeks after the DVD release of a movie, when the thrust of the marketing campaign has ended. Then the title could resurface with fans' interest.

Many studios are testing out premium video-on-demand film releases this year to add to the various digital outlets in the mix, including streaming and mobile devices. Calkins noted, "For me, it's the value of convenience."

Goldman Sachs analyst Ingrid Chung told The Hollywood Reporter that Facebook seems to be positioned as a pay-per-view platform, "which is more of a threat to other forms of VOD, such as iTunes or Amazon," rather than competition for film rental service Netflix.

Another analyst, James McQuivey with Forrester Research, said showing films on Facebook is a worthwhile test that the other studios want to follow. Since The Dark Knight has nearly four million Facebook fans, he added, "This is a great leap forward for consumers."

Last month, Warner began selling app editions for the iPhone and iPad of The Dark Knight and Inception with bonus features created by director Christopher Nolan. These apps are available in several international markets, including China, Brazil and the Netherlands, where iTunes does not sell film downloads.