If you believe the hype, physical media is slowly dying. There's no clear future for 4K video on Blu-ray, and DVDs are almost twenty years old now. Streaming video, and downloading your digital media to store on a hard drive, is the future. There's one Australian company that wants you to do exactly that.
EzyFlix is an entirely digital movie and TV store; it's the online streaming partner of DVD and Blu-ray retailer EzyDVD, which used to have retail outlets but is now almost entirely online-only as well. With an EzyFlix account, customers are able to purchase video content, have it stored indefinitely online, then access it from PC, Mac, iOS, Android and Smart TVs -- including the Google Chromecast dongle -- as often as they want.
To this end, EzyFlix is one of the two big UltraViolet brands in Australia, too -- you can redeem any Blu-ray or DVD movie you've bought from EzyDVD with the UltraViolet logo, getting a digital copy stored online for you to download or stream whenever you want.
I shot some questions at EzyFlix founder Craig White about the upstart video streaming service, its first year of operation, and his thoughts on the future of downloading and streaming movies and TV shows in Australia.
In your thoughts, what is Ezyflix.tv's number one way that it competes with broadly similar locker-esque services like iTunes where you digitally pay to own?
CW: Apple and iTunes is a closed ecosystem. It’s a good one, particularly for iDevice junkies. A closed ecosystem in this example means that when you buy from iTunes, you can only play your content back on an iDevice such as an iPod, iPhone or iPad along with a Mac or PC. If you want to change your device to a Samsung Galaxy S5, a Kindle Fire, HTC or a Google Nexus, you cannot access your iTunes acquired content. The reality is that Apple is a globally popular device manufacturer, but when you change your device from Apple, your content won’t go with you.
By contrast, EzyFlix.tv delivers a truly anywhere, anytime, any device offering. When you buy your filmed entertainment content from EzyFlix, you can download it on up to five separate devices at any one time. And it’s stored in the cloud so you can also stream your content an unlimited number of times from any connected device. Apple, Google Play and other online video service providers in Australia do not offer download-to-own, offline playback and device agnostic freedom. EzyFlix does.
And if you’re not ready to buy digital content and you still purchase a DVD or BluRay (with either UltraViolet or Disney’s Digtal Copy Plus rights), EzyFlix will store your content in the cloud and let you download it on up to five separate device at any one time. You can also stream it an unlimited number of times from any connected device. This is a very meaningful differentiation that more consumers will come to understand and value in time.
How do you compete with subscription services where consumers can pay a flat fee per month, which may be initially more attractive?
CW: The subscription video-on-demand service (SVOD) models are an ‘all you can eat’ model. What Netflix and SVOD models don’t offer (including in the USA), is the latest release movies.
SVOD services in Australia are equally limited with their availability of new release film offerings. Where new release titles are available, they come at an added cost of $5.99 for standard definition only.
SVOD services are the equivalent of traditional video store without a new release section. There would be walls and walls of old movies gathering dust and nothing new to watch. They are offered at less than $8 a month which is decent value, but consumers will still look to alternatives to watch the latest release movies. This is why, even in the USA, the ‘download-to-own’ and ‘transactional video-on-demand’ market is a bigger than SVOD.
Another case in point is to equate the SVOD model to the cinema business. New release movies are the lifeblood of a cinema. Imagine going to the cinema only to find the movies playing that were 12+ months or more old, and paying monthly fee for the privilege. All cinema chains would go broke if they pursued this model. Customers want new release movies.
EzyFlix.tv is not a subscription video-on-demand service and has no monthly fees or lock-in contracts. We allow customers to buy the films and TV shows they love from $2.99, or casually rent new release movies for $5.99 without any monthly obligations or subscription.
The other big UV service is JB Hi-Fi, which trades almost entirely off physical discs (which are better quality than streaming, in the case of Blu-ray). What do you do better than JB? Why should buyers commit to Ezyflix?
CW: EzyFlix.tv has a partnership with EzyDVD.com.au. EzyFlix.tv is the default UltraViolet locker service provider for EzyDVD.com.au which is Australia’s largest online retailer of DVD and Blu-Ray.
Packaged media is big business. It is a A$1B market in Australia while, to date, online video in less than A$200M but those numbers will flip in the coming 5-7 years. In the meantime, EzyFlix.tv will remain a specialist entertainment retailer. We won’t sell car radios, mobile phones, clock radios or other items typical of electronic retailers. That expertise and focus will be obvious to our consumers.
This is the impossible question, but how do you compete with free? Is there a hook you have versus torrenting and The Pirate Bay?
CW: “Free” like catch up services or FTA TV is OK because it’s advertising supported. “Free” meaning stolen is not OK.
An increase in legitimate services like EzyFlix.tv, better availability of content from studios and an overall better experience won’t stop piracy but it will suppress it to a degree.
There is no better example than looking at the rampant piracy that existed for online music before the humble iPod came along and offered ways to enjoy content that pirate models could not.Consumers responded by paying for that content more so than stealing it. UltraViolet is an example of the benefits of paying for content that cannot be matched by pirate sites.
Ultraviolet can initially seem confusing for customers, with some titles in their locker only working with the Retailer-LASP they purchased through. Is there any way you can simplify this for consumers on your end?
CW: The short answer is to, at the very least, “bond” your UltraViolet Locker with EzyFlix.tv because EzyFlix will playback all UV content that consumers may have acquired from any source. In time, we hope that your experience and engagement with EzyFlix will see you make your next transaction with us or our partner retail site EzyDVD.com.au.
What do you see as the broad future for movie and TV watching in the digital age? How do Chromecast, tablets, TVs, Blu-ray players all fit in?
CW: If you looked 5-10 years into the future, you’d see traditional business models who don’t embrace streaming devices, structurally challenged on account of the largest viewing audience being Gen Y & Z (who by then will be bigger spenders and coveted by ad agencies) more so than Gen X and Boomers.
I already like to say that EzyFlix.tv is the 21st Century video store for tech-savvy millennials. While Pay TV and other subscription services appeal to sports lovers and more traditional households, millennials, by contrast, are as likely to value a set top box now or in the future, as they do a VHS video or cassette tape today.
Millennials are the biggest shapers and consumers of popular culture, they spend the least amount of time watching free-to-air television and were the pioneers of social media and second-screening. They are aged between 18 and 34 and they’re smart and value-conscious. You could say they are “Very On Demanding”.
They will use devices that give them convenient access to the shows they want and when they want them. And, they are very likely to be happy to pay for that content more so than sit in front of a linear broadcast of anything other than The Voice or X Factor.