Warner Bros. Digital Distribution has partnered with Facebook to offer streaming movies for rent. It begins with The Dark Knight; if you go to the movie's Facebook Page you'll see the following message: "You can watch The Dark Knight right here on Facebook using Facebook Credits – it's only 30 credits. (offer not valid in all states)." That's right; this offer is presently only available to consumers in the US.
Clicking on the rent icon will charge you 30 Facebook Credits, or $3.00, to get the movie for 48 hours. The film is streamed from an application Warner Bros. built specifically for Facebook. It allows you to watch the movie in full-screen mode, pause the movie, and resume playing it when you log back into Facebook. At the same time, the application still gives users full Facebook functionality, including the ability to post comments on the movie, interact with friends, and update their status.
Warner Bros. says The Dark Knight is just a test offering, and more movies will become available for both rental and purchase "on a regular basis over the coming months." It's not clear if buying a movie on the website means being able to stream a movie without the 48 hour limit just from a Facebook Page or if users will also be able to access it elsewhere online.
The pricing structure is a little steep. $3.00 for a movie isn't exactly cheap when you can rent it on iTunes for the same price for 30 days (although you only have 24 hours to finish the movie once you've started watching it). Furthermore, a Netflix subscription is only $8 per month now in the US and Canada.
If Facebook quickly partners with other movie studios and can convince them to offer aggressive pricing in the hundreds of countries the social network is available in, then the movie industry could be transformed yet again. As it stands now, however, I'm interested but not impressed.
"Facebook has become a daily destination for hundreds of millions of people," Thomas Gewecke, President of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, said in a statement. "Making our films available through Facebook is a natural extension of our digital distribution efforts. It gives consumers a simple, convenient way to access and enjoy our films through the world's largest social network."