At least two other websites serve as directories to which movies are available where — and they don’t have the problems of the MPAA’s new site.
They’re CanIStream.It and GoWatchIt.com.
They’re just what you’d expect. You type in the movie you’re seeking, and boom: Read which sites offer them, for rent and for sale. Here’s CanIStream.It’s display for Antz:
It couldn’t be clearer. You can stream it free if you’re a Netflix member, or for $3 from iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, or Sony. Or you can buy it for a price ranging from $10 (Google, Vudu) to $14 (Apple).
GoWatchIt’s results convey the same information, but it’s harder to understand. That’s partly because of the graphic design, and partly because the results are organized by store rather than delivery method (stream, rent, buy):
My guess is that most people, most of the time, would prefer the information organized by delivery method. “I want to rent this movie online — where is it cheapest?” That’s how CanIStream.It does things, and it makes more sense.
WhereToWatch (the MPAA site), meanwhile, doesn’t even mention the free Netflix streaming. Also, it takes an extra click to get here. (After the search, you get a list of search results with only one item, which you have to click.)
Both CanIStream.It and GoWatchIt.com have excellent phone apps that offer the same information as the websites (organized the same way):
And both let you sign up for notifications, so that you’ll know when an unavailable movie becomes available.A modest suggestion
What the movie industry needs is a lesson in friction. In economic terms, that means “how hard it is to buy something from you.” Amazon’s “1-Click” buy button? That’s low friction. One click, and your product is on its way. By making it so hard to find, watch, and pay for movies, Hollywood is creating highfriction and leaving millions of dollars on the table.
It seems as though the MPAA spends more time and effort chasing down the bad guys (movie pirates) than it spends making movies easier to rent for the good guys. The fact that it has created WhereToWatch.com is an excellent sign that it has started to understand the importance of low friction in transactions.
But WhereToWatch.com, the movie industry’s attempt to create a directory, isless useful than its rivals, which were created by small, independent teams. That’s both worrisome and, somehow, predictable. Apparently, creating a huge, centralized, complex, ever-changing database on the Web isn’t as easy as it seems. (See also: healthcare.gov.)
Until the MPAA can fix its site — both the design and the information it provides — you should bookmark CanIStream.It and use that instead.
None of the sites offers 100 percent accurate, up-to-date listings; very often, they’ll tell you that a movie is not available from some service, when, in fact, it is. (They almost never make the opposite mistake.) The prices are sometimes wrong, and sometimes missing (especially on GoWatchIt.com). And one other finding: The availability and pricing lists on Google Play and YouTube are almost identical, since Google owns YouTube.
(To see what kind of information is wrong, check out Jan’s master spreadsheet of the results of 50 searches of four movie-rental sites on the three directory sites.)
All of the directory sites say that the errors are part of the data fed to them from their sources.
Obviously, the movie studios, the MPAA, and the online rental stores can do better. If they want people to defeat movie piracy, they should take away our reasons to pirate movies and watch movies online.