A studio-backed entertainment Web site called ClickStar Inc. launched Dec. 15, offering exclusive broadband debuts of feature film content and already-released hit movies from Sony Pictures, Universal Studios and Warner Bros., downloadable on demand.
ClickStar is a venture between Intel Corp. and Revelations Entertainment, the production company headed by Morgan Freeman and business partner Lori McCreary. ClickStar aims to become the leading online destination for premium entertainment, reinventing home entertainment by building a direct relationship between artists and consumers. “Providing digital video on the Web is not the major challenge today,” said Ewa Martinoff, vice president of marketing at ClickStar, Santa Monica, CA. “The major challenge is offering and distributing content securely and in a business model that is a win-win for all including the consumer.”
Broadband video management and distribution firm ExtendMedia, Boston, supports ClickStar’s back-end technology, powering its e-commerce capabilities as well as licensing and digital rights management; managing metadata and assets; and supporting customer relations.
The user interface at www.cstar.com was designed for an entertainment experience, not simply an online shopping cart experience similar to competitors CinemaNow, MovieLink and Amazon Unboxed, said Keith Kocho, founder of ExtendMedia.
“Most of the people we compete with have templates: video player on the upper right-hand corner, thumbnails in a column on the left,” he said. “We were able to design a unique look and feel to the Web site of personal contact with the stars.”
Along with offering movies within weeks of their release in theaters and in advance of their release on DVD, ClickStar also has bonus features unavailable on DVD and a number of thematic, artist-created channels starring Hollywood celebrities.
To advertise, ClickStar launched a marketing campaign extending from print to online. A contest begun Dec. 15 on YouTube lets visitors submit videos of their 10 favorite things about life, a strong theme in Mr. Freeman’s new film “10 Items or Less,” released in theaters Dec. 1. The 10 finalists will be shown on the ClickStar service. The top video, selected from the finalists by Brad Silberling, director of “10 Items or Less,” will earn $5,000.
ClickStar plans to continue marketing throughout the year using viral and traditional tactics. It will use ExtendMedia’s notifications engine to alert consumers when new content is available.
ExtendMedia’s flagship OpenCASE software is used not only to run the commercial aspects of ClickStar’s video business but also some of the internal business support. OpenCASE Entitlement Manager lets ClickStar’s customer support representatives restart downloads, process refunds and analyze and solve problems in real time through an intuitive Web-based interface linked to the rest of the system.
Because ClickStar offers consumers several options for accessing content including subscription, download-to-own and rentals, trends will emerge in use and profitability over time, Mr. Kocho said.
“It will be very interesting to see how consumers respond,” he said. “The real question is, ‘What use-cases will stick?’ How do consumers want to access this type of content, and what are they willing to pay for? We have no idea.”
The OpenCASE software measures user activity and business model profitability. It can use this data to optimize the site’s performance. Time will tell whether customers prefer a more direct way of receiving cinema.
“Digital distribution of filmed content is actually a great opportunity for independent filmmakers,” Ms. Martinoff said. “This is a much broader distribution channel with a much greater reach than an individual movie theater. This provides filmmakers an audience that would normally cost millions of dollars to reach.”