Transcript: Let's-a-Go! How Universal Found a Brand-New Customer
Brooks Barnes of the 'New York Times' on the new release window for 'Super Mario' and more
Sonny Bunch (00:06):
Welcome back to The Bulwark Goes to Hollywood. My name is Sonny Bunch. I'm culture editor at The Bulwark, and I'm very pleased to be joined today by Brooks Barnes. Now, Mr. Barnes is a staff reporter at the New York Times and has a really great piece out on a part of the industry that has changed a lot over the last couple of years here, but I think nobody has really gotten good numbers on, and he finally got some good numbers, and we're going to talk about those today, but also just the shift in general, and that has to do with premium video on demand. Now, premium video on demand, I will ask you to explain here in a moment what that is compared to other types of video on demand, streaming on demand, whatever, and all that. But thanks for being on the show today. I really appreciate it.
Brooks Barnes (00:52):
Yeah, no, I appreciate you asking. I've been sort of hammering on Universal for a while to give me some numbers, in part because they kept complaining that when I wrote about box office, it was taking an outdated view. "We make a lot of money on PVOD. You don't understand." That's coming from the Focus people. And I was like, "Okay, well, great. Well, tell me how much money you're making." So, we don't have a lot of numbers, but we have some.
And so, to explain the offering, since the ’90s, people have been or able to order movies on demand through their TV set, or more recently, iTunes or Google Play, and that usually happens after the exclusive theatrical window, about 90 days, right? So, it's about, these days, it can be $6 to rent a movie then, it can be $15 to buy one. But what Universal did during the pandemic is move that way up. Actually, they still offer that traditional VOD window, but they created a new one they called premium VOD, or PVOD. And that can happen after as little as 17 days, and they charge much, much more.
Sonny Bunch (02:18):
There are a couple of different things to unpack here. So, one of the things that is worth discussing is the breakdown of the theatrical window. This is a thing that the theater owners have fought for a long time. They wanted to keep a 90-day window of exclusivity in theaters, and during the pandemic, obviously that was a hard thing to keep going, because you had folks who wouldn't go to theaters. You had cities where theaters weren't even open. So, it was hard to maintain that window. And one of the things that you mentioned in your story that I had kind of forgotten about but was reminded is that AMC negotiated a cut of the revenue on these things, right?