Paramount Seizes the Lead in Streaming Awards Screeners

The studio is making contenders "Rango," "Super 8" and "Like Crazy" available online in a major shift to digital campaigning.

On Oct. 11, Paramount Pictures became this season's first studio to launch an online screener program for awards voters. By Oct. 14, Visual Effects Society members should get their online screeners of Rango, Super 8 and Like Crazy, via Deluxe Entertainment Services Group's platform. "The Deluxe solution allows Paramount to securely stream films backed by unique watermarking of the content tied to the individual recipients with DVD quality picture and a controlled window of availability," says Paramount's release. Tech-savvy VES members can play back the films on PC and Macs, iPads, and entertainment systems with compatible HDMI connections. The studio says it's the "first ever digital streaming program for awards contenders."

Cool! But wait a minute -- didn't Fox Searchlight break a tech barrier last Jan. 7 by putting Black Swan, 127 Hours and Conviction on iTunes for almost 100,000 SAG members to view on their their iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, MAC or PC, or Apple TV? Followed a week later on iTunes by Focus Features' The Kids Are All Right and Paramount's The Fighter? Lionsgate, Sony, and The Weinstein Company reached SAG voters via iTunes, too.

Why is the Paramount/Deluxe program different? "iTunes allows for a download not streaming," notes a Paramount spokesperson. Paramount has certainly seized a major digital beachhead earlier in the awards season than anyone yet. Expect more streaming screeners for more voter groups. Digital distribution works, as iTunes-screener-propelled SAG and Oscar winners Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, and Natalie Portman can attest. Digital screeners tend to cost less than DVDs. As a studio publicist told THR, sending 100,000 DVDs to voters can cost "anywhere from $400,000 to a million. [Executives] talk about how cost effective it was [to send screeners digitally]."

But physical DVD screeners won't be completely replaced by digital screeners right away. As one awards campaigner tells THR, "Some of the older voters don't even have email."