DirecTV Aiming to Launch its Controversial VOD Service Next Week

Despite theater owners’ objections, the studio-backed Home Premiere service will offer recent theatrical releases for domestic viewing

DirecTV hopes to launch Home Premiere, its contentious video-on-demand service next week, an executive with one of the studios involved in the launch confirms to TheWrap.

The service will offer $30 movies rentals from Sony, Universal, Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox as soon as two months after their theatrical release. According to Variety, the Adam Sandler romantic comedy "Just Go With It" will likely be among the films initially offered for premium home rental, along with the Warner Bros. thriller "The Rite" and Fox Searchlight's comedy "Cedar Rapids," which was released in the U.S. on January 11.

Studios have been kicking around the idea of premium home rentals — similar to boxing pay per view events — for years but theater owners have always balked at the idea. With the theatrical window shortening and DVD sales on the decline, the scheme has gained renewed momentum the year; at CinemaCon in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, news of the DirecTV service surface.

Theater owners cried foul. The National Assn. of Theater Owners blasted the proposed service. 

"Theater operators were not consulted or informed of the substance, details or timing of this announcement," NATO said in a statement. "It's particularly disappointing to confront this issue today, while we are celebrating our industry partnerships at our annual convention — CinemaCon — in Las Vegas."

Since then there have been murmurings of retaliation by exhibitors. Theater chain Regal Entertainment went so far as to threaten to cut trailers for films participating in the service. The AMC theater chain promised its own retaliation in the form of demanding lower licensing fees for films included in the service.

Earlier on Thursday, NATO toned down the rhetoric. It denied that it is encouraging theaters to boycott movies from studios that are releasing films earlier on video on demand. 

NATO offered no comment to TheWrap on this most recent report. DirecTV did not immediately respond to TheWrap's request for comment.

News of DirecTV's plan to launch Home Premiere next week was first reported by Variety.