By Jason Del Rey
Paramount Pictures has quietly introduced an online streaming option for "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," taking home viewing straight to consumers without the need for middlemen such as Netflix, Facebook, Blockbuster Movie Pass, Vudu, a cable company or a satellite provider.
Consumers can visit vod.transformersmovie.com to stream an HD version of the movie for $4.99 or an standard version for $3.99. Users have 48 hours to watch the movie from the time of signup.
The site says it is operated by Zukor, a unit of Paramount parent Viacom. Paramount publicized the site on Friday with an email blast to consumers from MTV Networks, another Viacom sibling.
The offer will last through the end of February, marking the first extended direct-to-consumer online streaming rental offered by Paramount, according to Amy Powell, exec VP-interactive marketing and film production. The studio warmed up for the effort by selling streams of the first two "Transformers" movies directly to consumers over two weeks in June.
"We’re testing the waters and interested to see consumer feedback," said Ms. Powell. "It’s just a little toe-dip to move in the direction we believe will be one of the future distribution means for content."
Paramount previously made its "Jackass" movies available for rent on Facebook, a platform that continues to absorb more users and more time. So why go around the middlemen? "Paramount wants to offer as many choices as possible when it comes to consumers enjoying its content," Ms. Powell said.
Tony Wible, media and entertainment analyst at Janney Capital Markets, said the direct-to-consumer approach isn’t likely to be a long-term solution for studios, given the head start for platforms like Netflix and Facebook. The more interesting frontier in video revolves around so-called UltraViolet video, which lets consumers access video content on any device or service platform, Mr. Wible said. Some retailers plan to sponsor DVD trade-in programs, in which DVDs will be converted to digital video available for streaming from the cloud for a nominal fee.
"I don’t think it will save the DVD business," he said, "but it should slow that decline."