Sainsbury's tunes in to video-on-demand

Tesco isn't the only supermarket pitting itself against the likes of Lovefilm, Sky and Netflix. Sainsbury's is joining the fray with its new online film service.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

Sainsbury's is cooking up a veritable storm in the movie streaming business. The supermarket has announced it is teaming up with Rovi, the digital home entertainment company, to add video on demand and pure-play services to its Sainsbury’s Entertainment arm (the bit that flogs music, games and films) by the end of the year.

Sainsbury's has been a little light on detail so far. It hasn’t announced the nature of its content deals or the pricing (except that it will be pay-per-view rather than a subscription model). No doubt Amazon and Netflix will be smacking their chops to find out what kind of deals Sainsbury’s has secured. So far, the big orange supermarket has simply promised that customers will get ‘convenient access to an extensive library of film and TV’.

By convenient, Sainsbury’s means super fast. Often new additions will come online the same day as the DVD release. What it doesn’t mean is multi-platform. The service will only run on computers to start with. Further down the line, however, the service will be rolled out to TVs, smartphones and games consoles.

News of Sainsbury’s new bag comes in the same week that Netflix, which only launched in the UK at the beginning of the year, reveals that it has hit the one-million customer mark. It is gaining fast on rival LoveFilm, which has two million customers across Europe.

But Sainsbury’s closest competition actually comes from Tesco. The supermarket giant’s BlinkBox service gives you digital copies every time you buy a DVD or Blu-Ray disc in store. It also offers a range of on-demand movies and TV shows. Then there’s Knowhow movies, Dixons’ foray into on-demand. This too is powered by Rovi, so it’ll be interesting to see whether Sainsbury’s has squeezed a better deal.

This isn't the supermarket's first stab at a acquiring new revenue stream this year. Only last month, Sainsbury’s acquired HMV’s stake in book-selling social network website, Anobii. It seems that CEO Justin King is trying to cover every aspect of the average weekly shop. But while the multiples fight it out over media crumbs, MT wonders whether they have a hope in hell of challenging the might of the top table: Sky, Amazon and Virgin Media...

On a separate note, MT wonders which of the remaining supermarkets are likely to follow suit? And what their services might be called? Lidlodeon, perhaps? Asda’s Aisle Be Back? Suggestions?

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