Milyoni

Holy social media, Batman! Video rentals come to Facebook

March 8, 2011: 2:44 PM ET

Facebook users can now watch The Dark Knight right on the website. It won't be the last time content providers come to where the users are.

Would you watch movies on Facebook? That's what Warner Brothers, a division of Time Warner (parent company of Fortune), wants to know by offering up The Dark Knight for viewing on the movie's Facebook fan page. 3.9 million fans have already "Liked" it and they and other Facebook users can rent it for 48 hours for 30 Facebook Credits, the equivalent of $3. There are some caveats though: it's only available in the United States, only streams in Standard Definition, and sharing remains limited to posting the activity to the NewsFeed, "Liking," or Tweeting it. Pretty barebones at this point, considering the wealth of features Facebook currently offers.

But the move is less notable for what it's lacking and more for what it means for content programming going forward. Recently, Warner Brothers also dabbled with other unorthodox distribution methods, by creating iPad, iPhone, and iPod apps specifically for The Dark Knight and Inception. Not an ideal solution -- who wants to download an iOS app for each and every movie? --but it does show that the studio wants to reach as many markets as possible. Its movie apps reach 35 worldwide markets, more than the 23 that iTunes covers. With Facebook, Warner Brothers has the potential to one day reach some 600 million users in more than 200 countries, from Jordan and Senegal to Botswana and Martinique. In doing so, it becomes the first studio to offer movie content within a social network. No outside links or shuttling to third-party web sites.
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