Movie-on-a-USB rental service Digiboo today announces its expansion to Portland via the city’s international airport. There are now seven kiosks throughout the airport where flyers can quickly select and download content directly to their own USBs and watch Internet-free during their travels. This adds to Digiboo’s current presence in the Seattle and Minneapolis airports.
The vending machine movie model is a familiar one. Redbox first introduced us to the concept of this type of on-the-go, DIY (do it yourself) consumption, and became a serious pain point for rental retailers like Blockbuster (which, if you haven’t noticed, are quickly becoming a thing of the past). But Digiboo wants to streamline and slim down the approach even more with its Internet-free playback and use of USB.
I had the chance to go hands-on with Digiboo and get a demo from founder Blake Thomas and head of marketing David Rondan. You can check out the process in the video below, but there isn’t much explanation necessary: After browsing and selecting your movie, you plug in your USB to the machine, swipe your credit card, and you’ll be notified when the content has been downloaded (which is fast — we’re talking maybe a couple minutes. Maybe.) Then, you connect to the Internet once to authenticate the Digiboo player, and from then on you can watch your rentals (or purchases, as that’s also an option) with or without a network connection. Rental prices range from $3 to $4, and purchases cost $15. Since initial installations, there have been over 3,000 transactions using Digiboo.
Thomas tells me that Digiboo chose to use the USB for a handhold of reasons; it’s small, consumers are familiar with it, and the startup sees hardware adoption of USB ports working in its favor. “There’s an overall trend in tech of embracing the USB. It’s becoming ubiquitous in desktops, laptops, TVs,” he says. And tablets? Well they have an answer for that as well, as Digiboo also will release a Wi-Fi download option within the coming weeks, and Rondan tells me that platform development is in the queue for the service. An Android app will be up first and while he says he has a date in mind, there’s no hard launch set quite yet. After that, Digiboo will start working on becoming iOS capable.
Naturally, whenever you talk about a new content distribution model, you have to talk about… well, content. It’s no secret that rights holders and platforms have had their fair share of disagreemnet, and that consumers’ choices have suffered as a result. But Digiboo comes from an enterprise background, as its founders all previously worked at MGM. Right now, the service has over 800 movie titles from Sony, Lions Gate, Miramax, Paramount, Warner Bros, and Kingston Digital.
Rondan emphasizes that given Digiboo’s desire to fill a hole for movie buffs that want to watch movies wherever and whenever, content is king. “If you’re going to have a viable movie service, you had to provide the content and our target audience are movie buffs so we need the selection,” he tells me. He also says that TV shows will be added later this year, and from there it’s onward and upward. “As people get used to our service and become more familiar with it, digital media is digital media,” says Rondan. “We can provide things like games and books. We’re focusing on movies right now, but we’ll do more as we learn about what our customers want.”
Given the consumer comfort with pay-as-you go content as well as our watch-from-anywhere attitudes, Digiboo seems like it’s in a position to reap the rewards of our times. “This idea is not new. Since digital files have existed, people have been thinking, ‘wouldn’t it be great if I could just get a movie?!’” he says. “But the technology just wasn’t there, in terms of transfer speeds, in terms of storage, in terms of size and compactness of the underlying hardware. So all of that came together at the right time for us.”
For the moment, Digiboo is focused on expansion and testing the location waters. Right now the kiosks are concentrated in airports, but places like coffee shops and malls could easily be seeing Digiboo service centers in the future.