LOS ANGELES: Despite a low-key media strategy, Movielink, the downloadable film site backed by five Hollywood studios, launched last week with intense press interest.
"The strategy wasn't to go all out to get the most coverage," explained Margit Wennmachers of San Francisco-based Outcast Communications, AOR for the new company. "We wanted to set a tone of realistic excitement."
Movielink is a joint venture between MGM, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures, and is the first industry-backed service to allow consumers to download a substantial number of films for a fee.
The venture was announced more than a year ago, but faces tough challenges in the consumer market. The downloads require broadband access - currently available in only 25 million US homes and dorm rooms - and a degree of comfort with web technology. Despite those obstacles, the studios backed the service to avoid the fate of the music industry, which is struggling against rampant illegal downloads of its product as well as a tarnished image for its aggressive stance against services such as Napster.
However, Movielink crafted a careful launch strategy to position itself as a work in progress, not the next big tech breakthrough.
Wennmachers and Movielink CEO Jim Ramo held a weeklong media tour before the launch to meet with key tech, entertainment and consumer writers in the US. The goal was to target press that appeals to early adopters of technology, while avoiding a general market focus.
"We were not going to do a big consumer push," said Wennmachers. "We didn't go talk to Glamour and what not. And we didn't do a big broadcast push."
During sit-downs with scribes such as The New York Times' Amy Harmon and Anna Wilde Mathews from The Wall Street Journal, Wennmachers and Ramo demonstrated a mock-up of the site and explained that Movielink did not expect immediate consumer success, but was rather an exploration of a new distribution channel.
Outcast also liaised with studio PR departments to arrange interviews with executives.
"We did a series of conference calls and e-mail communications to get input from the studios.
The goal there was to get them to sign off on things like press releases and provide quotes," said Wennmachers.
Outcast will now start helping Movielink on a consumer market push, set to begin next year.