MSpot Takes on Vudu, Discounts VOD Movies via 'Club' Subscriptions


Movie service MSpot said Friday that the company will discount newly-released streaming movies by allowing customers to combine per-movie purchases with a subscription model.

Under the new plan, users can rent standard-definition movies for $3.00 per movie or less, cheaper than the $3.99 the service charges on a per-movie basis. But users also have to sign up for one of three plans that allow users to purchase a number of pre-paid credits for a set fee per month.
What mSpot calls Movies Club Pricing comes in three packages: $4.99 per month for 20 movie credits; $7.99/mo for 40 credits; or $15.99/mo for 80 credits.

Users can watch the movies on either the PC or a number of mobile devices; the service supports the Apple iPhone, Google's Android platform, and the RIM BlackBerry, or up to a total of more than 50 different phones, the company said. mSpot also has designed an app for the Google TV platform, which users can access by scrolling down through the "Spotlight" category of the interface.
mSpot will beam movies to portable devices at a variety of bitrates and resolutions, optimizing the stream for the cellular connection and device. mSpot provides "white label" services for other existing cellular carriers, ten in all, including Sprint Movies.

"Our competitive advantage is, one - we are very good on portable devices, and support way more than our closest competitor and two - I also think we're unique in terms of pricing in terms of new releases," said Daren Tsui, mSpot's chief executive.

But in a preview of the beta site, how mSpot handles the monthly credits and applies them to the movies are somewhat confusing.
Users have a choice of selecting "All Movies" or "Club Movies". The latter is fairly straightforward; mSpot prices this selection of older movies at either a VOD price or a price in credits; Secretariat, for example, was priced at $3.99 or 15 credits. Under the "All Movies" tab, however, users can rent a movie like The Fighter for $3.99, or, if they belong to the Movies Club, they can rent the movie for $3.25. However, mSpot doesn't allow a user to apply the Movies Club credit, which apparently means that a user will have to watch an older "Club" movie to ensure that he or she is using up the credit allowance.
A company spokeswoman said the mSpot currently keeps about 1,200 movies in its library at any one time, shifting out older movies andd replacing them with recent releases. Featured releases included Inception, Despicable Me, The Town, Due Date, and other recent Hollywood hits. Avatar wasn't, however.

"We're very strong in the year window," Tsui said, meaning that the company seeks to emphasize the most recent releases., a service owned by Wal-Mart, also has made its name providing recent releases streamed to user devices, although the company has generally focused on set-top boxes and game consoles. Vudu also charges $3.99 per SD rental, and in an informal comparison of movie libraries, it appeared Vudu offered a greater selection.

Vudu also offers high-definition movies, with a 1080p-like HDX format. Tsui said that mSpot will offer HD movies in the third quarter, probably tacking on a $1 or so surcharge over the base price.

April 15, 2011