FandangoNOW Launch Timed to ‘Star Wars’ Digital Release

Turns out there’s a method to the madness when Comcast-owned Fandango launches its new premium VOD service FandangoNOW later this month.

Fandango president Paul Yanover told Broadcasting & Cable that the March 30 launch of FandangoNOW — a rebranded version of the transactional VOD service M-Go, which Fandango acquired in late January — looks to take advantage of the April 1 early digital release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The early digital offering of the blockbuster film comes just days before the April 5 DVD and Blu-ray Disc release from The Walt Disney Co.

“We had some great success in 2015, and Star Wars obviously was a giant one,” Yanover said. “Force Awakens will be available on digital April 1, and that will be the kickoff of a lot of great home entertainment hitting the marketplace. We think it’s important for us to be there for consumers with these big titles.”

The debut of FandangoNOW — first reported by Broadcasting & Cable — will mark the culmination of the online ticket seller’s goal of becoming an end-to-end service for movie fans, from theatrical to home entertainment. Fandango plans to use its new digital platform to offer “super tickets,” where moviegoers purchase digital content with their theatrical ticket. Bonus features, unique fan experiences and memorabilia may also be bundled in, Yanover added.

“I think, so far, it’s been tried with somewhat of an experimental approach, and we personally have been involved with many, if not all, of the ones in the U.S.,” Yanover said of previous super ticket experiments by studios. “… What we’re trying to do is make sure we have an integrated platform so that if we’re going to present to the consumer some sort of bundle — a theatrical purchase with some form of home entertainment — we can provide that to them through FandangoNOW, and streamline things.”

He sees consumers buying a theatrical ticket for a sequel, and having the previous film in a series bundled with the ticket price. “They can literally watch it now, and add it to their library,” he added.

Part of Fandango’s plans for end-to-end movie domination includes its Feb.17 acquisition of both the Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes properties from Warner Bros., which sees the studio taking on a minority stake in Fandango. With the Flixster acquisition, Fandango — for now — only has the theatrical assets of the brand, not the UltraViolet-enabled digital ownership portion, with Warner currently retaining those rights. UltraViolet is the buy once, play anywhere digital cloud content ownership service backed by every major studio, with the exception of Disney.

The goal is to slowly port over the Flixster content ownership portion of the business to FandangoNOW, Yanover said. “We don’t have a timeline for that … but I think when the Rotten Tomatoes and Flixster deal closes, and we’re further into integration, I think the team will have a better sense of what their plans are and what the timing looks like.”

Many — but not all — digital titles purchased via FandangoNOW when it launches will be UltraViolet-enabled. “We have been UltraViolet-integrated and we’ll continue to be UltraViolet-integrated,” Yanover said.

Overall, Yanover said his company’s recent acquisitions and the imminent launch of FandangoNOW will combine to make Fandango the first thing people think of when they discuss Hollywood films.   

“From a U.S. lens, our desire is to really assemble an amazing collection of assets to really create a network of services for moviegoers, that moves across the entire movie lifecycle,” he said. “From discovery to theatrical to a home viewing standpoint … our desire is to expand the Fandango experience.”