Where the hits are streaming

A look at streaming availability of the 2010 box office winners

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about how Netflix is in the process of moving from a DVD distribution company to primarily a streaming service. The question, though, is how close this future truly is.

In order to assess their progress, I decided to look at how many of the 2010 top box office earners were on the service. Figuring that we also needed a yardstick to compare Netflix offerings against, I took the top three online streaming services and got the data for each of them (generally speaking, rentals are around $3.99 to $4.99 and purchases seem to be around $14.99).

First, I pulled up the Box Office data and then put each title in the search engine for each of the services. I also looked up DVD availability from both Amazon and Netflix to ensure we had a yardstick we could measure against in terms of online vs. offline availability of titles. The assumption here was that some box office hit might not be available in either form due to the fact that they were recently released. I also made a decision to reject titles that are available on a pre-order basis as it is not yet possible to watch them. For future reference, all this data was pulled together the third week of January 2011.

2010: Box Office Winners availability

Once I did all this work I had a table for the  2010 box office numbers winners and it looked like this:

Rank Title Netflix Amazon iTunes Vudu DVD
1 Toy Story 3 No Rental only Yes Yes Yes
2 Alice in Wonderland Yes No Purchase only Purchase only Yes
3 Iron Man 2 No Yes Yes Yes Yes
4 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse No Yes Yes Yes Yes
5 Inception No Yes Yes Yes Yes
6 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 No No No No No
7 Despicable Me No Yes Yes Yes Yes
8 Shrek Forever After No Yes Yes Yes Yes
9 How to Train Your Dragon No Yes Yes Yes Yes
10 Tangled No No No No No
11 The Karate Kid No Yes Yes Yes Yes
12 Clash of the Titans No Purchase only No Yes Yes
13 Grown Ups No Yes Yes Yes Yes
14 Tron Legacy No No No No No
15 Megamind No No No No No
16 Little Fockers No No No No No
17 The Last Airbender No Yes Yes Yes Yes
18 True Grit No No No No No
19 Shutter Island Yes Purchase only Purchase only Purchase only Yes
20 The Other Guys No Yes Yes Yes Yes
21 Salt No Yes Yes Yes Yes
22 Jackass 3D No No No No No
23 Valentine’s Day No No No No Yes
24 Robin Hood No Yes Yes Yes Yes
25 The Expendables No Yes Yes Yes Yes
26 Due Date No No No No No
27 The Chronicle of Narnia:
Voyage of the Dawn Treader
No No No No No
28 Date Night No Yes Yes Yes Yes
29 Sex and the City 2 No Yes Yes Yes Yes
30 The Social Network No Yes Purchase only Purchase only Yes
31 The Book of Eli No No No No Yes
32 The Town No Yes Yes Yes Yes
33 Prince of Persia:
The Sands of Time
No Yes Yes Yes Yes
34 Red No No No No No
35 Percy Jackson & The Oplympians:
The Lightning Thief
No No No No Yes
36 Paranormal Activity 2 No No No No Yes
37 Yogi Bear No No No No No
38 Eat Pray Love No Yes Yes Yes Yes
39 Unstoppable No No No No No
40 Dear John Yes Purchase only Purchase only Purchase only Yes
41 The A-team No Yes Yes Yes Yes
42 Knight & Day No Yes Yes Yes Yes
43 Black Swan No No No No No
44 Dinner for Schmucks No Yes Yes Yes Yes
45 The Fighter No No No No No
46 The Bounty Hunter Yes No No No Yes
47 The Tourist No No No No No
48 Diary of a Wimpy Kid No Yes Yes Yes Yes
49 The Sorcerer’s Apprentice No Rental only Yes Yes Yes
50 A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) No Yes Yes Yes Yes
51 The Last Song Yes No Purchase only Purchase only Yes
52 The Wolfman No No No No Yes
53 Get him to the Greek No Yes Yes Yes Yes
54 Resident Evil: Afterlife No Purchase only Purchase only Purchase only Yes
55 Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too No Yes Yes Yes Yes
56 Tooth Fairy No No No No Yes
57 Secretariat No No No No Yes
58 Easy A No Yes Yes Yes No
59 Takers No Yes Yes Yes Yes
60 Legend of the Guardians:
The Owls of Ga’hoole
No Yes Yes Yes Yes
61 Life as We Know It No Yes No No No
62 Letters to Juliet No Yes Yes Yes Yes
63 Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps No Yes Yes Yes Yes
64 Predators No Yes Yes Yes Yes
65 Hot Tub Time Machine No No Purchase only Purchase only Yes
66 Kick-Ass No Purchase only Purchase only No Yes
67 The King’s Speech No No No No No
68 Killers No Yes Yes Yes Yes
69 Saw 3D No Yes No No Yes
70 Cop Out No No No No Yes
71 Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore No Yes Yes Yes Yes
72 Edge of Darkness No No No No Yes
73 Death at a Funeral Yes Purchase only Purchase only Purchase only Yes
74 Step-Up 3D No Yes No No Yes
75 The Last Exorcism No Yes Yes Yes Yes
76 Legion Yes Purchase only Purchase only Purchase only Yes
77 The Crazies Yes No No No Yes
78 Gulliver’s Travels No No No No No
79 Burlesque No No No No No
80 For Colored Girls No No No No Yes
81 The Back-up Plan No Yes Yes Yes Yes
82 Vampires Suck No Yes Yes Yes Yes
83 The American No Yes Yes Yes Yes
84 Green Zone No No No No Yes
85 Marmaduke No Yes Yes Yes Yes
86 Devil No Yes Yes Yes Yes
87 Hereafter No No No No No
88 When in Rome Yes No Purchase only Purchase only Yes
89 Love and Other Drugs No No No No No
90 She’s Out of My League No No No No Yes
91 Scott Pilgrim vs. the World No Yes Yes Yes Yes
92 Charlie St. Cloud No Yes Yes Yes Yes
93 Morning Glory No No No No No
94 Daybreakers No Purchase only Purchase only Purchase only Yes
95 How Do You Know No No No No No
96 Nanny McPhee Returns No Yes Yes Yes Yes
97 The Switch No No No No No
98 Brooklyn’s Finest Yes No Purchase only No Yes
99 Machete No Yes Yes Yes Yes
100 Ramona and Beezus No Yes Yes Yes Yes

Aggregate Rental data

When you tally it up, the rental chart looks as follows:

Netflix Amazon iTunes Vudu DVD
Top 10 1 7 7 7 8
Top 25 2 14 14 14 17
top 50 4 25 25 25 34
Top 100 10 48 46 46 74

The first thing one notices here is that Netflix seems to have a long way to go before having any claim to strength in that particular arena. With only 9 percent of the top 100 2010 movies, Netflix seems to come on the short end of the stick when it comes to making streams of box office winners online. In a future post, I will examine whether this is because their strength is more in older titles than in recent ones but, as far as the data currently show, the subscription model offered by Netflix would probably have a hard time fighting with a premium cable TV movie channel.

The story gets more interesting when one starts looking at the Video on Demand data for services like Amazon on demand, iTunes, and Vudu. My selection of those particular services was largely due to the fact that they are available in systems that can connect to your television. For example Amazon is available on the Roku box, iTunes is available on AppleTV, and Vudu is available on the Boxee box.

What I consider to be the most striking finding in this is the relative consistency of offerings across the board. None of the VoD players seem to have any particular advantage over the other. All of them batted in the 45-50 percent range, as far as the 2010 hits are concerned. By comparison, just under 75 percent of the movies were available on DVD at the time I did this research, giving DVDs a 1/3rd advantage over VoD at this time. One can only hope that the trend will go to that gap closing over the next few years.

Sales Data

Another interesting point is the closing of the gap between DVD and Vod when it comes to availability of titles on an ownership basis:

Amazon iTunes Vudu DVD
Top 10 6 8 8 8
Top 25 15 16 17 18
top 50 27 29 30 35
Overall 56 60 57 75

Here, the data seems to show increased availability of titles on an ownership basis as opposed to a rental one. The VoD services performed 10 percent better on availability, coming much closer to the number of titles offered over DVD.

Conclusion

While Netflix has been heralded as the leader in online streaming, the reality on the ground is much more complex. The Netflix model is predicated on an all you can eat model but if what you want to eat is a movie that was in the top 100 at the box office last year, viewers are left with only crumbs. The rental model offered by other internet based streaming companies is more in line with the traditional video on demand offerings available on cable television and the data seems to highlight that Hollywood is more comfortable with that model than it is with the Netflix one. This could present a strategic challenge for Netflix as it tries to negotiate more streaming contracts.

While DVD is still the king of the roost, the gap between DVD and online streams is slowly closing. The list I’ve created here can serve as a baseline against data next year to assess whether more titles will be made available. There also appears to be a preference in the film industry towards making titles available for sale instead of rent. I believe that this may be a short-sighted view as rental models can generate more income over the long run. It will be fascinating to see how all this develops.

Update: A more recent version of this post is now available.

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About the Author

Tristan Louis

Writing and working on the internet since 1993, I've launched 6 companies, of which 2 (internet.com and Earthweb) went public and two were sold (Net Quotient and MoveableMedia). My latest, Keepskor provides tools allowing anyone to develop mobile and connected TV games without writing a line of code. This is my personal site and all opinions here are mine.

  • Anonymous

    I’m curious, why wasn’t Redbox included?

  • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

    I didn’t include redbox because I wanted to focus on streaming as the model. The only reason I have DVD availability is as a stand-in for other means (RedBox, Blockbuster, local video store, direct purchase) to provide a yardstick as to what is generally considered “available”. My assumption is that if a title isn’t available on DVD, it probably is OK for it to not be available on streaming yet. This assumption is due to the fact that I didn’t want the discussion to be about potential NEW release windows but rather about matching existing ones…

  • kk_ck

    Netflix is a subscription video-on-demand. Rest are not. Rest are only digital rentals / physical rentals. This is an apples-oranges comparison.

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      What would you compare Netflix to then? Without a baseline, it’s hard to say. What this data indicates is that online streaming is coming of age but Netflix has a long way to go before its model is accepted by Hollywood.

      • Jimmy

        Maybe you should compare it the most glaringly obvious service. Hulu Plus.

        • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

          Hulu Plus is primarily TV-centric. This study was focused on movies. Maybe I should do a similar piece on the top TV shows last year.

  • Egruenwedel

    Great article, Tristan.
    I believe Netflix is more interested in TV content than movies for streaming. Its data regarding about 15 minutes streamed per month by the average subscribers suggests viewers opt to stream a TV episode compared to a 90-minute movie. But that could also mean there aren’t any movies available worth streaming … as your study suggests.
    Erik

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      That’s an interesting point but if that were the case, why would one go with Netflix over Hulu Plus?

  • http://twitter.com/JimTheFrog Jim Taylor

    I count 10 yeses in the NetFlix column. Did your spreadsheet miscount? That aside, excellent analysis. I checked CinemaNow and got essentially the same number, so it’s clear that title availability is pretty much the same across non-subscription services. It’s also interesting to note that some titles (Percy Jackson, Tooth Fairy, etc.) used to be available for streaming from CinemaNow and others but are no longer available because they’ve gone into the HBO VOD holdback window.

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      You were right. I corrected it. I suspect that CinemaNow would probably end up with the same movies as iTunes, Amazon, and Vudu… The results on those seem pretty consistent, highlighting that there is hardly any discernible differences between them.

  • http://twitter.com/fallsmatt Falls Matt

    I can handle the delay of movies of that came out a year ago. There are plenty of older titles that I need to catch up on. What rubs me the wrong way is why top 10 movies from 3, 5, and even 10 years ago are not available. I just looked at the top 10 box office grossing movies of 2008, which is more than 2 years ago now… how many of those 10 movies are available for instantwatch? ZERO. I decided to roll the clock back further, and then looked at the top 10 grossing movies of 2006, all movies from 4 to 5 years ago, and guess how many are available for instant watch? Just one! No Night at the Museum (which is all over basic cable), no Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man’s Chest, no DaVinci Code, no Superman Returns, no Cars. I’m not commenting on the quality of these movies, just their audience appeal. Rolling back to the mid/late 90s, Instant Watch doesn’t even have Titanic, the biggest movie of all time and by no means a recent movie in any way, shape, or form.

    This is the biggest hurdle for Netflix to overcome, in my opinion. When I have people over to the house and they first start looking at my Roku and what is available on Netflix, they are interested. Then they start looking up movies in the last 5 to 10 years that they remember (a lot of them on that list above), and when they see relatively few of their favorite movies listed, they get turned off pretty quickly.

    Does anyone know why popular movies from 5 years ago, which aren’t really hot titles any more, aren’t available on Netflix streaming yet? Are they too expensive?

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      Matt,

      I’m in the process of completing an upcoming entry on this, looking at the top 10 hits since 2005 and their presence on the different services. Stay tuned :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LAJEJBPTLP4QVHCBOHQPWRHSTE John Morgan

    I subscribe to Dish. Strangely, I don’t like, nor do I watch, recently made movies.
    Perhaps TCM should start a streaming VOD service.
    The Netflix “No” list, I wouldn’t watch.
    I never had to be at the box office to see the new hot release although I was there when “Gone With The Wind” first came to town. Everyone in the theater stood up and clapped when Scarlet shot the yankee between the eyes. That is a movie..

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      I wasn’t accounting for taste when I put the list together. Ultimately, the box office is decided by what the majority of people want to see. A lot of the movies on the list are movies I personally don’t care about but the majority of the viewing public has voted with their dollars and shown they’d want to watch those movies. So it seems like what is offered is not necessarily in line with what people generally want.