One of the most recent trends in digital media is the rise of on-demand viewing. A few years ago we would have scoffed at the possibility of catching up with the week’s TV shows or having access to a library of hundreds upon thousands of films. Today though, iPlayer is indispensable and websites like YouTube have changed the way we watch video online. The film industry has also taken notice of the financial possibilities of on-demand viewing, with more movies legally available online than ever before.
So it’s probably no surprise that retailers who are struggling on the high street are trying to get in on the act. Currys and PC World are set to launch their own on-demand film and TV service called KnowHow Movies. This follows troubled high-street chain HMV also attempting to grab some market share with its own HMV On Demand.
The biggest issue they face is changing the preconceptions of customers. When people think of Currys or PC World they think of technological goods such as computers, gadgets, etc. They don’t think of it as a place where they can watch films. HMV, despite its entertainment roots, has a similar headache – people know of HMV as a place to buy music and films, but remain relatively unaware of its on-demand offering.
Competition will also be difficult to topple. Lovefilm is an established market leader thanks to the combination of it being among the first websites to offer such a service, and that it now boasts a partnership with the all-powerful Amazon. Netflix, popular in the US, is also upping its efforts on UK shores. In the wake of these two juggernauts becoming success stories, everyone else has been playing catch-up.
The current state of the market echoes what happened in the music industry after MP3s became popular. Apple pioneered the online store, and while many imitators emerged, only a few are still standing. Even the recognisable and infamous Napster, re-born with a legal business model, couldn’t stand up to the might of iTunes.
The truth is that, at the moment, there’s only room for a couple of big-name players. The video-on-demand sector is currently going through the same phase that the digital music industry went through last decade. You may see lots of competition popping up in the next few months, but in a few years will the likes of HMV On Demand, KnowHow and Blinkbox survive? Unless they’ve got something unique to show you, it’s doubtful.