Last week, I looked at how many 2010 box office winners were available for legal streaming in the United States.The news was bad for Netflix as it had less than 10 per cent of the available titles.
As a reminder, this is what the 2010 aggregate data looked like:
But one question that was left unanswered was whether there was a bias in the data selection as it presented data that was specific to a single year.
So in order to assess the strength of the different services, I decided to look at the data for the 5 previous years, hoping to discern a pattern.
However, because it’s a lot of data to crunch, I decided to limit my research to top 10 over that time (in data point, this means a universe of 60 titles or 240 data points.).
So let’s start with the 2009 data:
And here, something interesting happening. Not only did Netflix not fare that much better but all of the other rental services fared much much worth.
I was now very intrigued. Was 2009 an unusual year or was there a pattern here? Were older title getting less available as time went on?
In order to answer those question, I decided to pull a lot more data, going all the way back to 2005 so I could have 5 year’s worth of data to look at.
2008 seems to be marked by a departure from the concept of renting movies online, with only 1 title (the Dark Knight) being available across all the services. Netflix does not even have access to that one, ending the year with no box office topper in its offering. Apple has a clear advantage over its competitors in the selling of titles.
The amount of titles available for rent on non-Netflix services increases a little for the 2007 catalogue (Netflix continues to be a non starter) and the number of titles for sales seems to be pretty consistent across all services.
iTunes and Vudu have back-catalogues that allow for 90 per cent coverage when it comes to purchasing the titles. Amazon brings up the rear with a respectable 7 titles. What’s interesting here is that there seems to be a clear divide between sales and rental availability.
2005 appears to be another equalizing year for non-netflix VOD services. However, it doesn’t mean that they are great, in that only 6 out of 10 titles are actually available.
With all that data in place, we can get a clearer picture of what’s available:
As far as Netflix is concerned, the trend doesn’t get better as you head back in time. In fact, the data suggests that their streaming catalogue gets worse as time goes on. While it is true that the company has only recently started getting into the streaming business, they will need to do a lot of work in order to catch up to their competitors.
The fact that their business model is radically different (Netflix takes a membership/all-you-can-eat approach while its competitors allow for a-la-carte purchases, more in line with traditional TV-based video on demand services) may also make life more difficult for them.
On the bright side, it appears that 2009 was a strange year as far as the other services are concerned and there are more titles available for rent as you go back in time, with the possible exception of the Apple iTunes store, which tends to favour selling over renting. All the players will need to do more work, however, if they want to broaden their appeal as none of them could deliver half of the available box office winners over a 6 year period.
Another interesting trend is the relative consistency in terms of availability: Amazon, Apple, and Vudu all appear to have access to the same times and, for the most part, they also all seemed to be denied access to the same titles. I’m not sure whether this points to fairness in the market or some kind of manipulation in the movie industry but it’s an interesting phenomenon worth noting.
All and all, if video on demand is to serve as a core component of the cord-cutting phenomenon (the idea that people are abandoning cable TV for online streams only), there is still much work that needs to be done.