Warners shrinks DVD, VOD window in the U.K. market


LONDON -- Warner Bros. in the U.K. has dramatically shifted the window between DVD and video on demand, announcing Thursday that several of its movies will be aired on VOD platforms at more or less the same time as on DVD.

"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and "Beowulf" became available on Sky, Virgin, BT and Xbox LIVE one and 15 days after their respective DVD releases. Viewers pay 3.95 pounds ($7.85) each to watch a movie an unlimited number of times within a 24-hour period.

Other films included in the deal are "December Boys," "Mrs. Ratcliffe's Revolution," "The Astronaut Farmer," "In the Land of Women" and "Clubland."

The first Hollywood studio in the U.K. to adopt the new window, the move follows trials in the U.S., Benelux and Nordic regions where, Warners claims, VOD buy rates and DVD sales rose due to the increased cross-promotion and marketing exposure of chosen titles at retail and on-demand.

Warner Bros. U.K. president and managing director Josh Berger said the initiative is an attempt to satisfy growing consumer desire "to see what they want, how, where and when they want it."

Leading U.K. specialist entertainment retailer HMV was unruffled by the assault on its DVD window. Gideon Lask, head of e-commerce, agreed with Berger that "customers should have the opportunity to discover and enjoy content the way they want to ... either through physical purchases or via downloaded content."

Ian Lewis, director of Sky Movies and Sky Box Office, said that experimentation with release patterns is key to exploiting an "inevitable" shift in consumer demand toward digital distribution. "This collaboration and others like it are early but positive steps towards realizing that potential," he said.

Sky has recently agreed to similar deals with Momentum Pictures to air "Vegas, Baby" and "The Hoax" at the same time as its DVD release and Artificial Eye's "The Edge of Heaven" simultaneously with its theatrical run.