Value Delivery Platform, or Trickery?


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A few months ago I was browsing through movies for movie night with my son when I spotted something unseemly. While I look forward to this weekly event, there is always a big question as to whether there will be a new movie that we like. The long gaps between quality guy movies are often a downer after a hard week at work (and school). Fortunately, there are new and emerging services that we can tap to fill the gaps. Still, the first service we tend to go to is MediaCo OnDemand (MediaCo is our only option here).

One thing I’ve thought about each week is why movies are priced differently. When we go to the theater (which is very infrequently) movies are typically all the same price…expensive! Yet, on-demand movies vary in price. I tend to look at what interests me first, and then sometimes check the price. I’ve been caught before with the $9.99 movie simply because it was available “while playing in theaters” or “before it’s in theaters.” Some might call this value pricing, but I consider it to be manipulative.

I no longer value theaters, or the timing of releases. I create the experience in my own home (big screen, surround sound, stocked refrigerator) and look for the lowest price. I’ve adapted to waiting well beyond the initial release of a movie – I just know I’m not going to see it for a while; and I’m cool with that. I’m also cool with waiting 10 years to see some independent movie that MediaCo decides to charge $9.99 to rent for a day just because it’s playing in 5 movie-houses across the country. It’s simply not worth it to me; but they try to game us anyway. There are a percentage of people who make the purchase not because they just can’t wait to see a movie that “hasn’t come out yet,” but because they aren’t paying attention – and MediaCo counts on that (but I hear they care).

Movies are movies. Yes, I would pay more for movies that I’m interested in than I would for others. But, that’s not what MediaCo is offering. With all of the “big” data they have on my purchase history (and others like me), they should be able to figure out what my household values and offer it to me; but they don’t. They try to trick us. Here’s an even more alarming example of how amateurish the pricing and marketing strategists are; they’ve thrown the BUY button into the RENT mix.


At first glance it seems like an obvious move to placate those that no longer wish to maintain physical media and want to make their rentals and purchases in the same place (like the old video rental stores). I’ve actually made a “BUY” purchase so who am I to complain? I’m a customer, that’s who! The first time I noticed this I almost made a $20 BUY order instead of a RENT order which normally goes for around $5.99. I wasn’t aware of this new feature, so I wasn’t paying attention to the button labels. I went where I always went to RENT! There was a movie that I wanted to watch but I quickly realized it was $20. What? I looked again and saw the BUY button. Yes, right there in the middle of the RENT buttons. And guess what, there was no RENT button as an option so I had no choice but to BUY, or not watch it. Tell that to the 7 year old sitting next to me who wants to watch it now (I successfully fought off the 7 year old inside me)!

Is it value pricing we are seeing here? Providing a movie to BUY at the highest price point with no other options is a game; it’s manipulative; and I resent it. And I resent it even more because MediaCo is essentially a monopoly where I live (I’d get satellite if I didn’t have so many trees). More and more, I explore Amazon’s videos for Prime members, Netflix and even YouTube. Thankfully, my son uses YouTube (well, not always thankfully) as his primary source of entertainment. He doesn’t care what the expensive old media companies want him to watch (unless I lead him into the trap!). As with many in his generation, they have options; and it seems that accessing topics of interest, or categories of interest when they want it, where they want it, and for little or no cost will rule the future.

Have fun trying to game your customers MediaCo. The older generations don’t appreciate it and the younger generation doesn’t care about you. You are in the process of being disrupted and it couldn’t happen soon enough in my opinion. I know what I like to consume, and I’m tired of paying for what everyone else might want to consume. Increasingly, I don’t need you so why would I pay a premium for you? I’m over-served; so the saying goes. May the inertia be with you.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Mike: I feel the pain of your frustration, but not to point I’d describe what you encountered as ‘trickery.’ Selling, at its core, IS manipulative. Vendors – successful vendors, at least – must cast their products in the most desirable light. Call it ‘manipulative,’ but to me, it’s no different than what bricks-and-mortar retailers do with product displays. Same for online merchants. Both must make their products tantalizing to customers and easy to buy. That involves creativity and yes, manipulation – though I’ll admit that a very fine line exists between what’s benign and what’s immoral.

    I don’t sense anything unethical about MediaCo’s practices. Their pricing policy of ‘skimming the cream’ on more popular or better titles might be aggravating, but it makes sense. And after all, you have choices.

  2. Andy,

    Thanks for the comment. I do expect some of this in “selling”; I while I don’t put this in the category of advanced behavioral economics, it does appear to be an attempt to trick me over predicting me. I see the problem as occurring much earlier in the process, where MediaCo should be trying to offer me things I value. They should have enough data to begin trying; but instead, they play childish games.

    It says a great deal about these highly paid “marketers” who hide behind short-term thinking. It’s why they turnover so quickly and reminds me of kiting schemes (my banking background comes through); it’s impossible to keep it up. While I don’t want my personal life invaded if they figure out what I value, I do want a set of options I value delivered in a way I value. It’s the whole customer experience thing.



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