Dendy have this week rolled out their eagerly anticipated streaming video service. While there are a number of operators already selling and renting movies online, the launch of Dendy Direct was always going to receive greater attention. As a long-established movie exhibition and distribution company, Dendy comes to the market with a well-known brand and with industry clout. The biggest challenge for Dendy Direct is proving that there is a reason for them to exist beyond Dendy simply wanting to be in the online film market. It’s an important move for them with concerns that future technological evolution (ie bigger TV screens, easier access to content, virtual reality systems like Occulus Rift, etc) and general cultural consumption habits (more cinema geared at event movies, the continuing dominance of premium TV series) may be leading toward a future where theatrical exhibition is marginalised. Being a smart operator, Dendy have made the move into selling and renting movies online. But, is this the service that consumers actually want?
At launch Dendy Direct offer 510 movies and 13 TV series for consumers to buy or rent. Films and shows are available to buy or rent in standard definition or high definition. HD content comes at a higher price. Most of the content is are available to buy or rent through all of the other notable online vendors, with very little exclusive content. A cursory look through the titles available has found that while titles like Mr Morgan’s Last Love is available on Dendy Direct, it isn’t to be found in the iTunes Australia store. It can, however, be found to rent on Google Play. So, at least here Dendy Direct seem to have some exclusivity on selling it. In regards to other titles, the majority are all available on other platforms for either the same price, or cheaper than what Dendy Direct are offering. For example, the fantastic Saudi Arabian film Wadjda is the same price to rent, but can be found for $5 cheaper in the Google Play store.
The sales pitch surrounding Dendy Direct is that it offers a curated collection of movies, the implication being that they’re seeking a more discerning audience. So, while the service does offer all the specialty and world movie selections one would expect, it is somewhat odd to find films like The Expendables and several Jason Statham films in the collection.
The website itself is pretty standard. It has an appealing look, but it’s still standard. At the top of the screen is a pull-down menu offering browsing and search functionality is offered. In regards to browsing, users can search through new titles, titles on sale, charts, recommendations, genres, or alphabetical. The front page then offers a featured film. At launch it’s the Michael Caine film Mr Morgan’s Last Love. Below that is a promo for Dendy Direct, explaining how to access the content and that the content itself is “hand-picked”. Further down the page are a selection of new titles, world movies, website offers,TV shows, and general themed groupings which will likely rotate. The site is easy to navigate, is clean, and generally pleasant to browse. The site is also mobile responsive and was very easy to navigate via iPad and phone. Furthermore, the website inspired the desire to go and re-watch some old favourites, so clearly the combination of the sites UI and its library are working together for the desired result.
While it’s great that Dendy is finally shifting into the online world, they haven’t provided a compelling reason to use their service instead of bigger players like Apple or Google. If you’re just planning on renting a film and playing it through your browser, it’s perfectly fine. But beyond that? Those wanting to watch on their TV screen will find themselves hampered. There are currently no apps available via smart TV’s. Nor does the site seem to support platforms like Chromecast. Why not instead just buy or rent via the Apple or Google stores, which do make it easier to send it to your TV? Competing smaller players like EzyFlix and Quickflix both support Chromecast and will have considerable library cross-over. Buy a video on Dendy Direct and you can view it through their website or app, but you won’t be able to download an individual file. Any customer wanting to build a significant digital library of films using Dendy Direct does so with the concern that Dendy Direct may not be around in coming years, meaning their entire library may potentially vanish. Apple allows users to download the file and consumers know Google isn’t going away anytime soon. Buying a film via Dendy Direct is just too risky for those wanting to build a library, which considering the Dendy audience of film lovers, is actually the bulk of their potential customer base. Overall, it’s great that Dendy have launched the service, but the limitations in place raise serious questions about how much value users will find from Dendy Direct. With considerable hurdles to actually watching a film you’ve rented or purchased on your home TV, Dendy Direct will disappoint much of its potential customer base.