MoviePass is now MehPass

Never a dull day with MoviePass.  I wrote yesterday about the oddness of the experience yesterday.  And how the lack of ability to plan, and the lottery game style – will I get a ticket or not  – just doesn’t work super well for the MP Value Prop.

Today MoviePass tried to further explain movie selection and give some level of predictability.  As we are used to with this company, the press was negative, and the explanation made the stock drop… again!

The only thing that is really clear to me at this point, is that MoviePass is still largely just a startup experiment.  It should never have gone public, and there is really no way of predicting what the company will do next.   They are tinkering with the product almost daily.  They seem to almost pathologically hide the full truth from customers and investors.  The sands shift so often you never really know where you stand with the company.  I have said it before, they are like nothing you have ever seen before.

I am massively curious how many subscribers they will end up with by the end of the change over period.  And it will be extremely interesting to see if they can manage to sign up any significant new customers at all.

I see this settling down to be a niche offering, centered almost entirely on partner theaters and partnered films only.   If you have a great E-ticket theater nearby, the Value Prop is great.   If you don’t – the Value Prop is now pretty weak.

If AMC exclusivity works for you, their Value Prop is way better now.  For an extra $10, the consumer gets so much more it is not even really close now.  I hate AMC.   I hope it cripples them.  But that is mostly just sour grapes 🙂 . In my little town, the AMC theater is totally awful – old, crappy chairs, terrible screens, it even of smells bad.   I would rather stay home.

The good theater here, Fairchild Cinema, is independent.    They are covered by MoviePass but not a partner.  Going there on MoviePass is like playing some weird sweepstakes game.  Will I win a time and ticket I like – play the MoviePass app game to see what you win!   I could not recommend that to a friend.   That’s a bad sign.

Maybe Moviepass will evolve from the niche play, back to something consumers could be excited about again.  It changes so often, the one thing you can count on is it will be something different a few months from now.

I definitely see them conserving a ton of cash with the new restrictions.  A slightly unuseable product does wonders to clamp down usage.

MoviePass is not too good to be true anymore.  The problem now, is it true enough to be any good?

We will soon find out how many people hang in, and how many people sign up for the new plan.  For E-ticket Users, I still think it is a no-brainer deal.  For people who have an acceptable nearby AMC – that is now clearly the better deal.

For people like me who have no E-ticket and only a crap AMC option.  It is a meh deal.   Take it or leave it, I wouldn’t sign up, but I am also not going to cancel now.  So I am not sure where that leaves me.  I am feeling the same way about the stock.  I won’t be buying more, but won’t sell what I have.  I

I am renaming the service.  MehPass

 

 

 

If Amazon Buys Landmark Is It Good for MP?

Widely reported today Amazon is interested in buying Landmark theaters.

One thing that both companies share is they are trying to lower prices as part of their core value proposition. That seems good.

A buy of Landmark by Amazon could upset the partnership with MP. Amazon could kill the MP deal, and instead offer a deal exclusively to Amazon Prime Members. That would be bad. Competing with Amazon in the theater because on any level brings fear.

Amazon could potentially look to acquire MP. Of course that would be good, but may limit any big upside to MP / HMNY shareholders.

if Amazon makes a move in this space, expect Walmart to start looking for a theater play as well. This will also bring Disney, Fox, Comcast, Verizon, ATT, Microsoft, Apple to sniff at the party. And don’t forget Netflix, and Spotify!

Moviepass has made the theater space interesting. It has clearly demonstrated a TON of pent up demand for in theater consumers, at reduced prices.

Big consumer media brands hate being left out of a big trend and opportunity. Especially when the audience is those coveted millennials. Reaching a captive audience of millennials is extremely valuable, they all know that. 2 hours of undivided attention from a millennial – priceless!

Watch out. MP is cheap, in a white hot space!

Christopher Robin – Crazy Rich Asians and Cash Burn Control

At the risk of being a Moviepass hog, I went and saw another movie tonight.   It was primarily for research purposes, so I felt OK with the decision.

First the good part.

The choice for Moviepass customers across the country today at most non-partner theaters was between Christopher Robin and Crazy Rich Asians.   I was frankly not very interested in either, but since I loved Winnie the Pooh when I was a kid I thought why not take a chance on that.   And with that decision, I was delighted with Moviepass one more time.

Christopher Robin was dare I say it, an awesome surprise.  I loved it!  I had forgotten what a great story it was, and how totally fantastic all the different characters were.  I relived a part of my childhood and sadly relived some of my horrible times in corporate America.   The acting, the special effects, the sound, the perfect fuzzy rendition of Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and the gang.  It was just super fun.   

Now, was it $15 dollars of fun.  No – it wasn’t.   Was it $3 dollars and 33 cents of fun?  Yes, it totally was!   Would I have ever gone to see the Movie without my Moviepass?  No way in hell.  Never, would not even think of going to see a Disney G rated movie on a Wednesday night for 15 bucks. 

My research takeaway – Moviepass can offer a surprisingly delightful experience pushing users to see movies that might not otherwise consider.  Moviepass can get people (like me) to the theaters to see movies they would never watch ever,  like Christopher Robbin.  That’s pretty big!  I am a believer in the Moviepass – Movie Insurance concept.  Even with the new deal, at $3.33 value a use – it’s not a big deal to see a movie just for the hell of it. 

Now the Bad Part

I am retired and do what I want whenever I want – unless my wife is telling me what do to…  Then I do whatever she says…  but I digress.  My point is I have plenty of free time to screw around dealing with all the hassles of using the Moviepass experience.   I can go to the theater and check in way before the movie time, I get my ticket, run a couple errands, go to dinner, and then go see the show.   My flexible schedule is not a reality for most people.    When I was working full time, I would not have had the time or patience to deal with a  movie purchasing experience like that.

I think a lot of people will be really annoyed with how flakey the service is right now.  The idea that you might or might not be able to see a movie, that you only kind of care about.  Combined with the issue of – if you don’t get your ticket early from the box office, the same day of the show, you might not be able to go at all, or be stuck paying full price.   It’s just not a very compelling value proposition.   I think for this new plan to work – people they will need to have at least 4 or 5 good choices available every day.   Limiting to two movie choices as was done today, along with the issue of not knowing what will be available from day to day, and not being able to plan for what you might go see on your special date night, I think is going to be a non-starter for a lot of people.   I am hoping we haven’t seen the new and improved selection from the new offering, otherwise, I think the sub numbers will suffer – badly.

I am afraid if the service stays flakey like this, it will continue to suffer from adverse selection.  I don’t think casual moviegoers will like what is being offered right now.   It doesn’t pass the critical elevator test.  Meaning you have to be able to clearly explain the value prop on an elevator ride.  Maybe the problem is that Moviepass is located in the Empire State Building, that ride might be long enough to explain Moviepass with all the caveats.

Here’s my hypothetical attempt to explain Moviepass to a friend.  “Yeh buddy- It’s a good price to see three movies at $3.33 per movie if you get around to seeing 3 each month.   It works at most Movie Theaters, but not all and -no iPic.  No Imax and no 3D, but they say they are working on an extra fee so you can see those.  They only have some of the movies sometimes, and lately, it has only been one or two movies available on any day.  <<my real friends have now already stopped listening>>  If you see a movie you really want to see in the morning you might want to run down to the theater, check in, get your ticket, to make sure the movie doesn’t disappear out of the app.  Oh, and if it is you and your significant other, you will both have to do that.  Or you will have to take his/her phone and MP card with you when you go check in.  <<now my friend is questioning our friendship and my sanity for recommending this thing at all>>  Oh, and one other drawback, you will have no idea what movie you will be able to see on any given day, and you can’t exactly plan to go to any specific movie on a specific day, because, well you never really know what will be available at what theater.”  <<The friend is now ready to push me out of the moving elevator>>

So anyway, I think there will need some pretty big tweaking of the service from what we are seeing here for the word of mouth marketing engine to kick back in.   Simple fix for MP would be to get organized and be really clear what movies will be available on what days at what theaters.   Of course, E-ticket partner theaters are not a problem – and maybe that is what Moviepass is trying to do here.  Force more theaters to play ball with them.  I can tell you without a doubt, traffic to my theater is obviously way down.  The Moviepass crowd is GONE.  Small theater chains must want to see those customers come back.  At my local theater, we have gone from a full parking lot, long lines at the concession stand, back to, front row parking, and a ghost town theater.  It’s like the place has gone back to pre-moviepass days.  Sad and empty.

I think Moviepass is going to work out a lot more deals with theaters, and studios, the selection, and predictability will slowly improve.  In the meantime, I think cash burn looks like it is well under control, I just hope that chokehold on cash doesn’t kill the subscription goose!    ohh Moviepass – never a dull moment – always on the edge!

 

 

 

 

 

Moviepass Stories Have Become the Internet’s Clickbait Machine – It’s Britney BITCH!

I worked for one of the largest websites in the world for many years. MSN.com – we had over 100 Million customers visit monthly. One thing we got very good at, and I hate admitting it, was using clickbait titles and pics to lure customers into our article pages.

The process is extremely easy. Pick topics that are hot in search, create tantalizing sensational headlines, and watch the traffic spike up. Hell, I am doing it with this blog right now!!… it’s hard to quit old habits!

The best headlines are sensational and negative. Nobody wants to read about good news. The best photos are sexy, or scary.  That is why TV News always leads with car wrecks, fires, shootings, and scandals. Nobody wants to hear about great teachers, or doctors saving cancer patients, or a social worker helping somebody get back on their feet. That’s not NEWS that’s boring!

People are weird social animals that can’t look away from god-awful things. They run to see a fire, they crave a good 48 Hours or 20/20 informative murder porn episode. It’s human nature. We are run by fear and flight. And we desperately want to know of the latest tragic thing that happened immediately, and we wonder in fear if it will hurt us next.

On MSN, a great headline is something like “Britney Spears life in shambles after tough divorce, and running out of money”. That would be a clickbait banger! Clicks galore with that one.

One thing you need to know about the online-only business press. These sites are desperate for traffic – they all operate on a razors edge financially, and the competition is brutal. They play the clickbait game as hard as they can.

They also love free and cheap content. This is why you see stories like the “users complain they can’t cancel Moviepass” pop up all over the pace in succession in one day. In that example, Mashable was the first to do the story. Mashable and Buzzfeed are the two original clickbait machine businesses.

Literally, it is their business model. They look for and write headlines that they see in trending topics in search logs from Google, they then try and find some scandal and look for ways sensationalize it.

They won’t do any real research on the topic, rarely will they bother to verify the validity of the story at all. In fact, reporting the rumor is considered good enough – it’s actually great if you are trying to drive traffic because it will get people to argue about it on social media!  That is also great for clicks!.   The primary metric management uses for success is “did people click the headline” from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever big traffic source they are trying to suck from.

If you work at one of these places your job is to write as many “clickbait” headlines and stories you can in a day. And you are measured by the audience you pull in.  It’s a nasty business- and it requires playing on human emotions, and knowing how to work the click.

These sites act like sheep- if Mashable looks like they got a story that is “clicking” the other sites like Vox, Buzzfeed, Business Insider, The Street, Market Watch etc. will do a “story on the story” so they can get some of those clicks. It’s competitive every day. And they don’t want to lose out. And the cheapest story to go with is the story somebody else has already written. They don’t bother to fact check anything, they simply say. “Reported by Mashable” users can’t cancel Moviepass. Speed is everything, the stories are dead in just a few hours.  Here’s what the media pile on looks like 24 hours later!  135,000 results!  BOOM just like that.  And poor old Mashable who “broke the story” – they are lost in the crowd.  It’s a brutal game.

It’s also a true Journalism nightmare. But these people are not journalists. As I have written about here before, we had deals with a lot of these sites at MSN to syndicate their “content”. So I have actually visited most of their offices. It is fascinating to see it. The scene is a bunch Journalism or English majors interning or just out of college, they make next to nothing and work in near-sweatshop conditions, pumping out stories as fast as they can. Quantity and click-ability rules over quality. It’s scary to think about how inexperienced these people are and really how little most of them know about the topics they write. But it’s a business. And it is what it is.

So it caught my attention today when Moviepass mentioned this little bullet in their Momentum Press Release. (Which. BTW- was great to see! And has some great nuggets in it)

MoviePass is one of the most widely read business stories of 2018.

It reminded me again, the online financial media is almost totally useless.

Read every headline and story with a huge grain of salt. The chances of accuracy are very low.

Good news, unless it is a HUGE upside earnings type story, generally is not covered. Nobody will click on a headline that says. “Company executing well, new customer service team is improving”. That is BORING!!  And definitely NOT clickable.  If one of my interns came to me with that headline, I would slap them across the face with my mousepad!! Give me something people will click on you stupid rookie! We are trying to run a business here!

As Teddy said today in the Fox Business interview, Moviepass is one of the hottest brands of the year. Everyone is talking about it. With that heat, comes the fire of clickbait. Expect Moviepass to be the Britney Spears of the financial press for at least a few more months. Longer if it takes off. Shorter If Britney dies. But if death comes, that will certainly be the click of the day!

Fox Business Interview and New Model

Link to Interview on Fox Business

  • Utilization Rate .08
  • 3M Subs Holding
  • Down to $12M cash burn now
  • Changes “will make us profitable”
  • Ted Denounces dilution
  • Say they have 6 month worth of cash
  • 1 Million already switched to new plan
  • Mitch – “New plan gets us to cash flow positive, and when the market starts to realize that the need for capital is declining rapidly I think people..Investors”.  Cavuto interrupts “what’s in it for the customers?”   Damn it Cavuto – let the man answer the question!

New Model – at .8 Utilization and $11ticket price  (highest I have ever modeled) show GM positive.

I am not sure why they can’t just show a profitable month for August now.  Maybe they will?