Sky UK and Virgin Media both offer new Universal movies

Self-isolating brits will be able to watch the latest Universal movies without leaving the house via Sky and Virgin Media.

NBCUniversal announced its ground-breaking decision to make new movies available to stream on demand immediately, thus eradicating the cinema commercial window, earlier this week. Sky announced it would offer the facility to its UK customers almost immediately and now Virgin Media has decided to join the big night in party.

As with almost everything else right now, this move is being positioned in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Across much of the world schools are being closed, people told to work from home and families increasingly barricading themselves into their homes, emerging only to panic-buy bog roll and pasta. The assumption is that a lot of telly will be watched while this runs its course.

“We’re working hard at Sky to make sure we continue to look after our customers,” said Stephen van Rooyen, EVP & CEO, Sky UK and Europe. “We’re also introducing some things to help make life a little easier for anyone at home trying to work, stay connected to loved ones, or keep the family entertained.”

“In these challenging times, its great news for our customers that they won’t be missing out on the latest cinema releases,” said David Bouchier, Chief Digital Entertainment Officer at Virgin Media. “At a click of a button, friends and families can sit back, relax and enjoy the latest blockbusters from the comfort of their sofa.”

For once we’re not getting ripped off on the exchange rate, with movies like Trolls World Tour costing quarantined Brits £16, compared to $20 in the US. While it’s both understandable and desirable for entertainment providers to be doing their bit to maintain national morale, there may come a time when we don’t have the bandwidth to support this spike in demand. Now that really will be a crisis.

Comcast NBCUniversal makes new movies available to stream immediately

In recognition of the fact that nobody is allowed to go to the cinema anymore, Universal pictures will allow people to rent new movies as soon as they’re released.

The first title this move will apply to is DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour, which will be released on Friday 20 March and will be immediately available to rent for, for 48 hours, 20 bucks or local equivalent. Prior to this, movies tended to have a cascade of commercial windows, with the price reducing over time, but the streaming era has made that model look increasingly obsolete.

“Rather than delaying these films or releasing them into a challenged distribution landscape, we wanted to provide an option for people to view these titles in the home that is both accessible and affordable,” said Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal. “We hope and believe that people will still go to the movies in theatres where available, but we understand that for people in different areas of the world that is increasingly becoming less possible.”

This seems like a good idea since much of the world is on lockdown thanks to COVID-19 and it wouldn’t be surprising to see other movie distributors follow suit. The only potential downside for them is that it will be hard to put the genie back in the bottle once the crisis is over and it seems likely that the era of being compelled to go to a cinema to see new releases is permanently over.