One year after its debut, Movies Anywhere, the free-to-download app and service for digital movies run by Disney, has garnered nearly 6 million users who have added more than 150 million purchased movies to their collections.
All told, Movies Anywhere users have streamed more than 1 billion minutes of over 35 million movies, across 100-plus different device types. The service currently has around 5.8 million user accounts and has topped 6 million app downloads to date.
To be sure, those numbers — which translate into more than 16 million hours in its first 12 months — are absolutely dwarfed by, say, Netflix, which at the start of this year said it pumped out over 140 million hours of video every day. But Movies Anywhere general manager Karin Gilford said the service’s growth since the October 2017 launch reflects not only increased traction but also its impact on driving digital movie sales.
“We somewhat exceeded our expectations for Year One,” she said. “Our users are among the most passionate and engaged movie fans, so it’s been incredibly rewarding to see them embrace and value our product in such a positive way.”
Movies Anywhere offers a library of over 7,500 digital movies, including new releases, from five major studios: Disney, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Notably absent from the roster for now are Lionsgate and Paramount Pictures. The most-watched movie in the first year was Disney-Pixar’s “Coco.”
Consumers can store eligible movies purchased from six retail partners — Apple’s iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Walmart’s Vudu, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV, and NBCU’s FandangoNow — in their Movies Anywhere account, and then access them via the service’s apps for mobile and TV-connected devices. They also can redeem digital codes included in eligible Blu-ray Disc and DVD packages from participating studios and access them on Movies Anywhere.
Confusingly, Disney previously operated its own similarly named service, called Disney Movies Anywhere, which it debuted in 2014. The company sunset that service in February 2018, and instructed users to migrate their collections to Movies Anywhere — which obviously contributed to overall usage of the newer service.
Movies Anywhere is similar to UltraViolet, an older digital-locker entertainment system that launched in 2011. After one year in operation, UV had between 5 million-6 million user accounts. According to the most recent stats available, as of July 2017 UltraViolet had signed up more than 30 million users, who had registered 260 million movies and TV shows.
But UltraViolet has suffered from the absence of major players, including Disney, Apple, Google and Amazon — and it has continued to lose ground. This year, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate and Universal each discontinued support for UltraViolet with new releases (and as of Sept. 18, Universal’s catalog titles were no longer eligible for UltraViolet).
According to Gilford, one of the big differences between UltraViolet and Movies Anywhere is that the latter is an app-based, consumer-facing destination where users can see and stream their movie collections. She added that there are multiple examples of services serving the same function that can coexist, like Visa and MasterCard.
“The notion [with Movies Anywhere] was to have a complete solution for the entire ecosystem – with multiple retailers, multiple studios, and a consumer destination,” Gilford said.
As Movies Anywhere heads into its second year of existence, Gilford and her team are focused on continuing to improve the user experience for movie fans. Features on the Movies Anywhere road map include new tools to manage film collections. The music industry “has nailed that,” Gilford said. “We think there are interesting ways we can let users elevate their collection, to organize and segment them.”
While Movies Anywhere is owned by the Walt Disney Co., it operates independently from offices in Burbank, Calif., with a dedicated staff of about 100 employees (mostly engineers). “It still feels really like a startup,” said Gilford. As GM, she reports to an advisory board with representatives from the five studio partners.
The five studios each providing funding to Movies Anywhere, but there’s no fee for retailers to participate. “The notion is that all boats rise,” said Gilford.
The exec joined Movies Anywhere in January 2017. Prior to that, she was SVP of digital media for Disney-ABC Television Group. Gilford also worked for Comcast Interactive Media and was formerly GM of entertainment at Yahoo.
To spur more signups, Movies Anywhere this week launched a limited-time offer timed for its one-year anniversary that will provide a free copy of Warner Bros.’ “Happy Feet” to new users who sync for the first time with one digital retailer. Those who sync for the first time with two digital retailers also will receive 20th Century Fox’s “The Martian” and Universal’s “The Fate of the Furious.”
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