The Mubi service launches on PS3 in autumn this year in Europe, Australia and New Zealand with expansion to further countries currently being considered.
If you’re not familiar with Mubi, it is a great site where you can watch films online and it also serves as a cinema social networking site, a Facebook for cinephiles if you will. As Mubi’s previous name suggests it focuses mainly on the more ‘arthouse’ end of the cinematic spectrum.
Although it is a great site and the collection of films they currently have is wonderful the prices do not seem very competitive. Although a few films are free and a few are priced at £1 each, the majority cost £3 and a monthly subscription costs £12. Now this may seem reasonably cheap and similar to other services such as Lovefilm or iTunes but when you look at what it offers and compare it to the US service Netflix, where you can get their Watch Instantly (a streaming option that works on multiple devices) package and one DVD at a time for just $8.99 (just over £6), it looks less appealing. The Netflix service also offers a variety of films rather than the niche selection that Mubi has, allowing you to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters as well as classics from Werner Herzog, Ingmar Bergman or Akira Kurosawa. Take a look at The Criterion Cast’s excellent site which lists Criterion films on Netflix for just a small sample of some of the arthouse titles available on Netflix.
I also think that it is significant that when watching a film online you get none of the benefits that DVDs and Blu-Rays have to offer, such as commentaries, deleted scenes and making of documentaries. Extras such as these are particularly appealing to fans of Mubi’s kind of films and I can only assume the logic is that people will watch the films on Mubi and if they want the extras they will then buy the physical version.
Another rival option in the UK is Lovefilm who currently offer DVD/Blu-Ray/Game packages with the option to watch online, similar to Netflix and with comparable prices. Significantly though their watch online service is not available on devices such as PS3s giving Mubi an advantage. In response to a question I recently asked about a Lovefilm watch instantly style service on my PS3, Lovefilm replied with the following:
We are looking to introduce further devices in the future – Watch this space !
I do think Mubi is a fantastic site but if Lovefilm offer a watch instantly service on the PS3 with the same titles, Mubi’s service will become somewhat redundant. If there is a division where arthouse titles are available on Mubi and everything else on Lovefilm then I think this would be a terrible situation that would either result in customers having to choose one collection of films over another, thereby ‘classifying’ their tastes, or force them to sign up to two services when one should suffice.
Although this is great news that Mubi is launching on the PS3 and think it should be treated with some reservation as the UK are still not getting services equal to US counterparts and we are expected to pay more. There are clearly interesting developments ahead for the way we watch films at home in the UK and I am excited about these prospects but I really hope the companies involved give the customer what they want, an affordable multi-platform service with a large variety of titles.
UPDATE: Check out the launch trailer for MUBI on the PS3 embedded below.
Source: Screen Daily and Thompson on Hollywood