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:
|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|
|6||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1||No||No||No||No||No|
|8||Shrek Forever After||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|9||How to Train Your Dragon||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|11||The Karate Kid||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|12||Clash of the Titans||No||Purchase only||No||Yes||Yes|
|17||The Last Airbender||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|19||Shutter Island||Yes||Purchase only||Purchase only||Purchase only||Yes|
|20||The Other Guys||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|27||The Chronicle of Narnia:|
Voyage of the Dawn Treader
|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|
|33||Prince of Persia:|
The Sands of Time
|35||Percy Jackson & The Oplympians:|
The Lightning Thief
|36||Paranormal Activity 2||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|38||Eat Pray Love||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|40||Dear John||Yes||Purchase only||Purchase only||Purchase only||Yes|
|42||Knight & Day||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|44||Dinner for Schmucks||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|46||The Bounty Hunter||Yes||No||No||No||Yes|
|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|
|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|
|60||Legend of the Guardians:|
The Owls of Ga’hoole
|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|
|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|
|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|
|75||The Last Exorcism||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|76||Legion||Yes||Purchase only||Purchase only||Purchase only||Yes|
|80||For Colored Girls||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|81||The Back-up Plan||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|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|
|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|
|98||Brooklyn’s Finest||Yes||No||Purchase only||No||Yes|
|100||Ramona and Beezus||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Aggregate Rental data
When you tally it up, the rental chart looks as follows:
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.
Another interesting point is the closing of the gap between DVD and Vod when it comes to availability of titles on an ownership basis:
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.
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.