Hollywood directors’ Home Premiere concerns

Following DirecTV’s announcement that it would be the first pay-TV platform to launch the Home Premiere premium video on demand service, a group of prominent movie directors, including James Cameron and Peter Jackson, have asked movie studios to reconsider their involvement in the initiative,

DirecTV revealed April 19 that it would launch Home Premiere on April 21 with the Sony Pictures movie Just Go With It. DirecTV’s HD-DVR customers can rent the title for $29.99 for 48 hours. Home Premiere movies are made available on VoD about 60 days after their theatrical release, roughly half the normal VoD window of four months. Each Home Premiere movie will be available for some two weeks.

Home Premiere has already come under attack from movie theatre owners who are worried that the narrowed window will reduce their box office takings. The 23-strong group of directors issued a letter supporting the National Association of Theater Owners’ opposition to premium VoD and urging movie studios to reconsider participating in Home Premium.

Cameron and the other directors urged the studios and cable companies to recognise that a new premium VoD release window “could irrevocably harm the financial model of our film industry.”

The letter warned that “if wiser heads do not prevail, the cannibalisation of theatrical revenue in favour of a faulty, premature home video window could lead to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue,” adding that some theatres would close. It also suggested that releasing a pristine, digital copy of new movies early to the home would only increase the piracy problem – not solve it,

The studios share the directors’ piracy concerns, indeed, DirecTV was selected as the first platform provider of Home Premiere because it already had anti-copying watermarking technology.

DirecTV said it understood the directors’ concerns, but contended they were largely unfounded. “We understand their concerns, but we believe Home Premiere, through its new, early window will give titles more play and an additional promotional bump (in between windows) that will benefit theatres,” DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said in a statement. “Overall, it’s a positive for the entire industry as well as movie fans.”

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