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Reading Between the Lines; Movie Rentals Come to Facebook ** Updated **

After thinking about the news that movies are going to be available for sale and rent on Facebook, I think there's a new battle brewing in the content distribution business.  Sure this is just one announcement by one studio, but rest assured Facebook is seeking to identify and develop similar relationships with other movie studios and music labels. 

For Facebook, this is a natural fit, because so many of today's social interactions about pop culture are held on the social networking site.  So, why not establish relationships with the content owners, and monetize those discussions.  The relationship between Warner Brothers and Facebook does just that, it places movies in close proximity to the dialogue by Facebook's users about them.  For example, a user can comment that they saw a movie and loved it; while another can disagree, but in-line with that discussion and available for all users can be a simple one-click option to purchase the content.  Gone are the barriers of now heading to a brick & mortar location, or searching for the content on another site.  This relationship provides for a simple integrated experience.  Further, Facebook can foster those conversations and extend it's relationship with it's users while keeping them on the site longer.

In a sense, with this news Facebook is reverse engineering the immensely popular iTunes store…where Apple is trying to build-out a social network with it's Ping offering, instead Facebook is bringing the content purchasing experience right into their site.  In an age old chicken or the egg type of debate, we're left to wonder which will prove to be the winning strategy: first establishing the leading social network website, or first building the number one online destination for audio and video content? 

It would only seem natural that Facebook will look to build on this news, in which case this could be the sign of an interesting paradigm shift.  In time, will a Facebook partnered with other studios and music labels give iTunes a run for it's money (or should we say your  money!)

Finally, regardless of the long-term outcome, what I like most about Warner Brothers bringing their films to this new platform reflects something I often share with clients: it's best to extend your message beyond any particular platform.  In order to meet the needs of today's segmented audiences, it is important to offer multiple opportunities & distribution avenues with your message.  In that regard, whether iTunes or Facebook battle it out, this is a brilliant move for the studio in adopting a strategy that makes the purchasing of their content platform agnostic.

Update 3/11/11:

Fresh on the heels of Warner Brother's announcement earlier this week, it looks like other industry heavyweights are also realizing the potential of Facebook as a media distribution mechanism.  Specifically, according to AllFacebook.com, Sony Music is also considering distribution on Facebook.  The site spoke with Sony's John Calkins, at the 2011 Digital Hollywood Media Summit in New York, who said the organization is looking into platforms like Facebook, since they could potentially be a powerful distribution option.  Check the link below for the full story on AllFacebook.com.

On the Web:
Warner Bros to offer movies through Facebook

Sony Mulls Video Distribution On Facebook

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