WWiillll YYoou­uTTu­ubbee mmaak­kee mmoon­neeyy oonn ‘‘TTh­hee IIn­nt­teer­rvvi­ieeww’’??

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

There is an old say­ing that any pub­lic­ity is good pub­lic­ity, as long as they spell your name right. That may ap­ply in the case of “The In­ter­view” from Sony Corp.’s (NYSE: SNE) Sony Pic­tures En­ter­tain­ment group, which has be­come bet­ter recog­nised as a sym­bol than as a movie.

Could this be the break­through that Google Inc. (NAS­DAQ: GOOG) has been wait­ing for to light a fire un­der its at­tempts to mon­e­tise YouTube? Once Sony de­cided to pull the fill from ma­jor dis­tri­bu­tion after the large U.S. theater chains de­clined to show the film fol­low­ing threats of ter­ror­ism from the hack­ers, Google saw an op­por­tu­nity. Google’s chief le­gal of­fi­cer wrote on the company’s of­fi­cial blog:

“[A]fter dis­cussing all the is­sues, Sony and Google agreed that we could not sit on the side­lines and al­low a hand­ful of peo­ple to de­ter­mine the lim­its of free speech in another coun­try (how­ever silly the con­tent might be).”

Wav­ing the flag of free speech at­tracted about $15 mln in rental fees and pur­chases for Sony from YouTube, from Mi­crosoft Corp. (NAS­DAQ: MSFT), which streamed the movie via Xbox Live, and from a ded­i­cated Sony site. Net­flix Inc. (NAS­DAQ: NFLX) passed on the op­por­tu­nity. Ap­ple Inc. (NAS­DAQ: AAPL) did as well, but has since made the movie avail­able for rent or pur­chase through the iTunes store.

At a rental price of $6, that trans­lates to about 2.5 mln downloads of the movie. Box Of­fice Mojo re­ported that 331 in­de­pen­dent U.S. the­atres also screened the film and ac­counted for about $2.85 mln in box of­fice re­ceipts in the four days since the movie’s re­lease.

YouTube has streamed movies for sev­eral years, but has got­ten lit­tle mind-share for its ef­forts. Prospec­tive view­ers can find out what’s avail­able on the Movies chan­nel, which has 18.5 mln sub­scribers, com­pared with Net­flix’s to­tal of more than 53 mln world­wide sub­scribers. And where Net­flix sub­scrip­tions cost $8 or $9 a month, a “sub­scrip­tion” to YouTube’s Movies chan­nel is free and sub­scribers pay-per­view.

As long as Net­flix and Hulu of­fer an all-you-can-eat buf­fet for the same price as one or two a la carte items, YouTube will not dent the dom­i­nant play­ers’ business. But YouTube cer­tainly made some un­ex­pected rev­enue from “The In­ter­view” and es­sen­tially leapfrogged Net­flix’s planned si­mul­ta­ne­ous re­lease to the­aters and on­line of a se­quel to “Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Dragon.” All of the ma­jor U.S. the­atre chains have said they will not screen the movie or any oth­ers that are re­leased simultaneously on the Web and in the­aters (called day-and-date re­leases in the movie business).

Is “The In­ter­view” a game-changer for YouTube? Due to its unique cir­cum­stance at the cen­ter of an in­ter­na­tional ker­fuf­fle, it gar­nered a lot of at­ten­tion it may not oth­er­wise have re­ceived and a $15 mln open­ing is noth­ing to print Tshirts over. Still, maybe the folks at YouTube saw some­thing they liked and are even to­day think­ing up ways to lever­age this mod­est suc­cess into a real prod­uct.

(By Paul Au­sick, Source: 24/7 Wall St.com)

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