Just when you thought the UK video on-demand market couldn’t get any more crowded, a new service has been launched: Wuaki.
Owned by Rakuten – aka, the people who own Play.com – it has a unique selling point besides its oh-so-offbeat name: it’s the first VOD service to offer subscription and pay-per-view tariffs.
The site, launched in beta this month, will feature “thousands of hours of movie and TV content, including titles from major Hollywood Studios and the BBC”, according to Rakuten, Warner Bros., Disney, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment are all on board, while BBC shows such as Doctor Who and The Tudors will also be on offer.
A quick look at the website’s “latest releases” on its home page and you can see that its pay-per-view titles include Identity Thief, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, Oz the Great and Powerful, The Guilt Trip, Cloud Atlas – all titles that have been released on DVD in the last few weeks.
Click through to its subscription area and you see a range that boasts the following: Scoboy Doo, Damb and Dumber, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, WALL-E and Cars 2.
What do all of the above have in common? They’re already available on other VOD platforms in the UK. No exclusives, no originals.
Without unique content, Wuaki.tv’s main claim to fame, then, is its dual-payment model, allowing subscription-based “free” viewing of movies and TV shows or rental/purchase of individual titles. The crucial thing is, though, that the catalogues of content (unsurprisingly) do not overlap: you cannot subscribe and watch Identity Thief – perhaps a blessing – but instead have to pay for it separately, regardless of whether you’re paying to already watch Cars 2 whenever you like.
At the moment, because the site is in beta, there is no games console, smart TV or tablet support; the site is only available for PCs and Macs. Downloads are also not an option; it’s streaming all the way.
No other service, it’s true, offers both payment models in one site, but if you already have a Netflix or LOVEFiLM Instant account, why subscribe at all when you can buy the titles from iTunes, blinkbox or Wuaki.tv without signing up to Rakuten’s scheme?
The price might answer that.
While rentals and purchases are the standard £3.49/£4.49 (SD/HD) for a 48-hour viewing window and a fairly typical £10.99/£14.99 (SD/HD) for purchase, the subscription rate has another neat deal: sign up now and, rather than the typical £5.99 monthly rate, you can pay £2.99 (that’s half-price) per month. Not for a few months; for life.
It’s a neat way to draw in customers who haven’t signed up to any subscription service yet – the offer is open to the first 75,000 people, or up until Friday 13th September.
“Streaming services have grown significantly in the UK, and we see a huge gap to offer a hybrid of the traditional subscription and a la carte models,” comments Jacinto Roca, Founder and CEO of Wuaki.tv. “Our Wuaki Plus subscription offers a quality service at an attractive monthly rate. However, we know many people also want to rent or buy the very latest new releases, which are usually not available on subscription streaming services immediately, and others simply prefer to have on-demand on an a la carte basis. With Wuaki users can have both, and pick-and-choose what they want, when they want.”
“We’ve already seen huge success with the hybrid model in Spain, with over 600,000 users, and believe we’ll see similar success in the UK and other European markets.”
What do you think? Is Wuaki.tv a string of barmy gimmicks? Or is the whole thing so crazy it just might work?
Once the service is out of beta, we’ll give you our official VODzilla.co verdict.
For more information, visit www.wuaki.tv.