On November 12, the six member studios of Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) launched a new search site: WhereToWatch.com, a streamlined venture that provides channels by which online consumers can search for films and TV shows. The site addresses an issue that was written about in the Washington Post last year on how online piracy is inadvertently encouraged by the lack of a one-stop legitimate source.
“WhereToWatch supports the hard work and creativity that go into films and TV shows by guiding consumers to a high-quality, easy viewing experience on wide variety of legitimate platforms,” said Kate Bedingfield, chief spokesperson at the MPAA, told Indiewire.
According to Bedingfield, “The search tool is designed to simplify the viewing experience to help consumers find the shows and movies they’re looking for on legitimate platforms with as few clicks as possible. The site offers availability on digital downloading and streaming sites, and if the film is still in theaters, you can put in your zip code and we’ll provide you with theater times and locations. We want to meet consumers online and in theaters—wherever they want to be.”
WhereToWatch.com is clearly filling a need, but is it too late? Are some consumers simply unwilling to pay for content they can get for free (albeit, illegally)?
The ad-free site itself is streamlined and user-friendly. All it takes is a quick search (by genre, actor, rating, director or title) before a “where to watch” list of platforms ranging from Netflix to iTunes, Vudu and SnagFilms (Indiewire’s parent company) pop up, prices or subscription notices listed underneath. In addition to the Google-esque search function, the site also provides a comprehensive list of other search tools and outlets to utilize on the web—and there’s plenty out there, making it easier than ever to find what a viewer wants on whichever platform they prefer.
With WheretoWatch.com, the MPAA is clearly sending two crucial messages: that the reality of portable entertainment via the Internet is here to stay and that online piracy of content will not be tolerated
But many online entertainment consumers at this point feel entitled to free content after having access (illegal and otherwise) to channels that provide free movies for years—whether from music (as exhibited by the rise and lawsuit fall of Napster in the late ’90s to early 2000s) to the latest blockbuster (since 2003 Waxy.org‘s Andy Baio has tracked the amount of time it takes for Oscar screeners to hit the web, tracking leaks via spreadsheet). As they say, bad habits are hard to break.
While it’s difficult to say with confidence that if WhereToWatch.com had been available 15 years ago, pirated copies of “Gravity” and “Game of Thrones” would not exist today, it’s possible that the entitlement factor might not be there (so often people use lack of availability of content through legal means as an excuse to watch it illegally).
Of course, even with this new site, people will continue to find ways to “fight the man” through illegal streaming and downloading. But perhaps WheretoWatch, still in beta, will dissuade at least some viewers who are willing to pay artists for their work.