Just when you thought it was safe to salvage your Moviebeam box for spare parts, there’s new hope on the horizon that Moviebeam may once again be coming to a television screen near you. Like a zombie from a bad horror flick, Moviebeam continues to rise from the dead feasting on the rotted brains of media moguls and venture capitalists with each new incarnation.
According to the Daily Bankruptcy Review, Movie Gallery has asked for bankruptcy court approval to sell their VOD service to Dar Capital Limited at a $2.25 million price tag.
Movie Gallery pulled the plug on its-on-demand movie service, called MovieBeam, in December as part of its restructuring under Chapter 11 protection. Dar Capital Limited has agreed to buy MovieBeam, which had about 1,800 subscribers at the time it was shut down. The service required customers to purchase a television set-top box that allowed them to order films for between $1.99 and $4.99. Movie Gallery said in court papers filed Thursday that it began shopping the MovieBeam business soon after shuttering the service and that 14 parties showed an interest in the company. Dar Capital is picking up MovieBeam’s remaining assets, which include certain trademarks and intellectual property associated with the business.
While the resurrection of Moviebeam will be welcome news for the 1,800 customers who initially ponied up the dough for a box, the sale of the service represents another bitter defeat for Movie Gallery. Just last year, they paid $10 million for the service. Initially, they had hoped to use Moviebeam to strengthen their digital strategy, but when they couldn’t convince in store customers to invest in yet another set top box, they shuttered the money losing service and cut off the early adopters who had plunked down hard earned cash for the box.
If the courts do allow the sale to take place, I’m not convinced that Dar Capital will have much luck in performing CPR on this one. Moviebeam fatal flaw was that that it suffered from a lack of choice and I don’t see this being any less of an issue for Dar Capital. If consumers could get access to everything on demand, paying an upfront fee wouldn’t be as much of a big deal, but with a miniscule selection of movies, it’s hard to justify spending money on a box, especially when you still have to pay for the content.
Even at the heavily discounted price of $2.25 million, this still means that Dar Capital will be paying $1,250 per subscriber. At this cost, they may be better off subsidizing the cost of 2,000 boxes and starting their own service. Then again, it’s entirely possible that Dar Capital is more interested in the bandwidth agreements, then the actual customer base. Moviebeam delivers their movies by piggybacking on PBS’ bandwidth.
Last week, Sezmi launched their wunderbox with promises of a bandwidth delivery system that sounds eerily similar to the one that Moviebeam implemented. Given the amount of bandwidth that Sezmi will need to deliver on their high definition promises, it wouldn’t surprise me if Dar Capital flips Moviebeam’s bandwidth, instead of turning the service back on. It’s still too early to know what Dar Capital’s end game will actually be, but we should know more on May 8th when Movie Gallery is due back in court.
Davis Freeberg is a technology enthusiast living in the Bay Area. He enjoys writing about movies, music, and the impact that digital technology is having on traditional media. Read more at Davis Freeberg’s Digital Connection.