NEW YORK — The FandangoNOW transactional video on demand division of Fandango is seeing “huge demand” for 4K Ultra High-Def (UHD) content, according to Greg Ferris, the company’s VP of product.
FandangoNOW has been “leaning in heavily on 4K” and high dynamic range (HDR) “since the very early days,” he told the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) during a recent interview. “We were the first to come out with 4K” content across the transactional VOD space before Fandango’s 2016 acquisition of M-GO, the video streaming company that transformed into FandangoNOW, he said.
About 20% of a title’s business on FandangoNOW has been in 4K when the title is offered in that format, according to the company. That strong demand is being seen even among customers using devices that “aren’t necessarily 4K” capable, Ferris pointed out, noting many people are “future-proofing their libraries” because, even if they don’t have 4K TVs today, if they buy a 4K title from FandangoNOW, they will be able to view it in 4K when they buy a UHD TV in the future.
“We’re seeing a lot of that behavior,” he said, adding the film studios are “starting to get a little bit more aggressive with their 4K pricing, which allows us to get more aggressive with our 4K pricing.” As a result, 4K content pricing is in “closer parity with HD than we’ve seen in the past,” he told us.
As we reported during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, FandangoNOW will be the first U.S. digital retailer to land IMAX Enhanced films for sale directly to the home. The deal with IMAX — and DTS on the audio front — will give FandangoNOW exclusive rights to the IMAX films, which are 4K and HDR enabled, through 2019.
It’s not clear yet which movies will initially be available at launch in the third quarter. But Ferris told MESA that his company was “coordinating” the initial titles with IMAX and Sony, whose select Bravia TVs will be the first devices to support the initiative at about the time of rollout.
The deal will allow FandangoNOW “to deliver a more premium experience for a subset of titles on a subset of devices, which we hope to grow to more devices and to more titles over time,” Ferris said. The films will feature an “expanded aspect ratio with a premium audio track from DTS,” he noted.
“It will be a limited subset of our user base that will have” the ability to view that content in the IMAX format initially, he pointed out, adding: “For anyone else who buys that content, it will still deliver the standard 4K HDR experience, and then, should they upgrade to [a compatible] Sony Bravia TV or should another TV manufacturer come onboard later, they’ll automatically have the rights to watch that content in the IMAX format.”
Fandango, meanwhile, has been rolling out initiatives to not only differentiate and grow its FandangoNOW and Fandango movie theater ticketing businesses, but also drive customers of each of those two businesses to start using the other service or increase their usage of the other service.
For example, FandangoNOW introduced “binge bundles” over last year’s Labor Day weekend with more than 100 packages of movies — many of them made up of film series or at least common themes or genres — from companies including Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony and Universal.
One way in which FandangoNOW has sought to differentiate itself from rivals has been in how “we curate our content,” Ferris said. “We started looking at a lot of the behavior that we saw occurring from people that would rent several movies over the course of a weekend, or in preparation for a big event in theaters,” such as the current Disney/Marvel theatrical hit “Avengers: Endgame,” he explained.
Customers would often “rent two or three or four movies in anticipation of the big movie in theaters or, often times, just because they want to take in a few movies over the weekend,” he noted.
Although the transactional VOD sector “has always supported the concept of a purchasable bundle,” the pricing had typically been relatively high — often $30 or $40, he pointed out. What FandangoNOW has created is the “concept of a rentable bundle,” he noted. With its studio partners, the company was able “to come up with offerings that were really competitive and provided great discounts: often times 50 percent off when you combine several titles,” he said.
Ahead of the “Avengers: Endgame” theatrical release, FandangoNOW made the full slate of 20 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies that were available for home digital viewing available to customers at a “deeply discounted” price, he said. “We saw just [a] huge uptick in volume” around the rentals of all those movies, he noted, adding that, for the first time, all 20 of those movies were among the top 100 rentals at its web site at the same time.
In another initiative, the company has been offering several types of incentives for consumers to buy tickets for new movie releases from Fandango.com. For example, consumers who have bought tickets for the new movie “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum” from Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment division could get the first two films in that series from FandangoNOW “at a deep discount,” he said.
Fandango has also been offering exclusive Early Access film screenings. As part of that initiative started early this year, Fandango first made “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” available for customers who bought a ticket to see it in theaters three weeks before the general public could see it, in cooperation with DreamWorks Animation, he noted.
“As part of that transaction, if you bought a ticket to see that Early Access screening, we also provided another DreamWorks movie on us to watch at home, on FandangoNOW,” he said. That was followed by Early Access screenings for Warner’s “Shazam!” More recently, Fandango announced Early Access screenings for Paramount’s “Rocketman” and Universal/Illumination’s “The Secret Life of Pets 2.” Consumers who buy a ticket to the latter have been able to get a free song download from the movie soundtrack.
Another way the company connected Fandango and FandangoNOW was the rollout of a Fandango VIP Plus Reward loyalty program on Fandango.com. Ferris noted: “The more tickets you buy, the more discounts you earn.
You can apply those discounts either to additional movie tickets or you can apply them to movie rentals or purchases on FandangoNOW.” That started as a summer program last year, and “we got such great feedback that we rolled it out as an evergreen program” in November, he said, adding that, since the launch, the company has seen an uptick in ticket sales and movie streams.