Simultaneous Release: Can Movie Studios Offer Films
Across Distribution Channels at the Same Time
Without Cannibalizing Audiences?
An Interpret Syndicated Research Service subscription is $10,000 per year and includes twelve research reports and unlimited analyst inquiry.
For subscription inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (310) 255-0590.
Reproduction by any method or unauthorized circulation is strictly prohibited. Interpret’s syndicated research reports are intended for the sole
use of clients. All opinions and projections are based on Interpret’s judgment at the time of publication and are subject to change.
Published November 2009. © 2009 Interpret, LLC
Simultaneous Release: Can Movie Studios Offer Films Across Distribution
Channels at the Same Time Without Cannibalizing Audiences?
Catalyst: With DVD sales sliding and digital distribution becoming more popular, film studios are
increasingly experimenting with their movies’ release windows across each distribution channel,
perhaps eventually moving toward a universal day-and-date release strategy. How will a simultaneous
release window likely affect existing consumer audiences for each distribution outlet?
1. How have the exclusive release windows for feature films been eroding over time?
2. How will consumers likely be affected by the ultimate in release window collapse: the
simultaneous release of a title across all distribution channels?
3. How can studios and other content owners take advantage of a simultaneous release for
maximum profitability without cannibalizing existing audiences of any one distribution channel?
There are many benefits to a simultaneous release strategy, including the possibility of increasing the
audience for a particular film by offering additional viewing options and catering to eager movie
viewers’ growing expectations that they be able to watch content ‘anytime, anyplace, anywhere’. As
long as each distribution channel finds a way to differentiate itself and create its own niche in the movie
universe, theaters, DVD/Blu-ray, VOD, streaming, and downloading will all most likely be able to co-
Shrinking Windows Among Different Distribution Channels
Historically, a movie release in Hollywood followed a particular pathway through the different modes of
distribution, moving from one outlet to the next as if following a line of stepping stones. First, a film hit
theaters; four to five months later, it made its debut on home video, both for purchase and rental, after
which Video-on-Demand and Pay-per-View services followed suit, along with hospitality distributors
(hotels and airplanes). Lastly, the movie moved to television, first appearing on premium subscription
networks such as HBO, and, eventually, migrating to cable and broadcast TV a few years after the initial
theatrical run. Each of these distribution channels possessed its own timed release window with
guaranteed exclusivity in order to protect its unique revenue and prevent consumer cannibalism by
This stepping-stone release pattern worked well when there was enormous revenue to be made from
the home video market in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as consumers converted their film libraries
from VHS to DVD and sales of the new format soared. During this period of transition, studios
maintained strict release windows in order to funnel consumers to each movie outlet in turn and to
protect robust DVD sales by eliminating competition from theaters and television. In the past few years,
however, DVD sales have been sliding as the format has neared its saturation point, and new
distribution channels -- including downloading, streaming, and Video-on-Demand -- have emerged to
challenge Blu-ray, DVD’s anointed home video successor. While physical disc sales still net formidable
revenue for movie studios, the rise of digital forms of film distribution and the realignment of
consumers’ expectations around ‘anytime, anyplace, anywhere’ content consumption are forcing
filmmakers to reconsider old models for release windows.
In an attempt to keep up with consumer trends, the major film studios have recently been
experimenting with the traditional stepping-stone release pattern, shrinking and shaping the windows
of exclusivity for different distribution channels and observing the outcome. Sony, for example, is
providing recent hit Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to owners of its Internet-connected Bravia
HDTVs and Blu-ray players for digital rental one month before the title is available on home video in
stores. Paramount has released GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra on DVD and Blu-ray only 88 days after its
theatrical debut, shortening the usual window by more than a month, and Warner Bros. has been
offering many of its titles, including Gran Torino and My Sister’s Keeper, on VOD day-and-date with their
As traditional release windows shrink and disappear, the possibility exists that movie releases will one
day be day-and-date across all possible distribution outlets. Ins