The Kindle of Movies

What if you could save and share scenes from movies like you can save and share passages from books? The pieces are in place to make this happen.

Similar to how I return to my favorite pages in a good book, I like to return to my favorite scenes in a good movie. I like to reflect on them, write about them, share them, and live the deep truth within them. However, there’s no great way to engage with scenes in movies like you can with pages in books.

Movieclips made progress here when it partnered with YouTube to make popular movie scenes publicly available online in 2011. The Movieclips team even convinced studios to let unofficial scene uploads remain on YouTube with a ”passion versus piracy” argument. This argument was supported with technology by ZEFR, a startup co-founded by Movieclips founder Rich Raddon. This technology identified unofficial scene uploads on YouTube and enabled studios to monetize that content through views and Buy buttons.

A fan uploaded this scene to YouTube without studio permission but the studio receives the benefits of the scene’s exposure.

Movieclips and ZEFR gave studios a new revenue and marketing channel. They also filled a discovery gap in the movie market, allowing people to discover new movies through scenes rather than only trailers. But an engagement gap still exists.

Adding scene curation features to movie streaming platforms like YouTube could fill this gap. Similar to how Kindle lets readers highlight, bookmark, and share passages in books they purchase, YouTube could let movie watchers clip, moviemark, and share scenes in movies they purchase. In addition to adding value to digital movie purchases and YouTube Premium subscriptions, these features could turn fans into “micro influencers” for studios and democratize the idea behind Movieclips.

How YouTube can enable movie engagement

Unlike platforms like Apple TV and Prime Video, YouTube has features in place today that enable a degree of engagement for movies available on YouTube. You can share posts about movies to your YouTube profile (screenshot), add movies to playlists (screenshot), and leave comments on the movie landing page (screenshot).

These are nice features, but they happen at the movie level rather than the scene level where deeper engagement happens. Similar to how Kindle supported engagement at the page and passage level to become the go-to platform for digital book purchases, YouTube could support engagement at the scene level to become the go-to platform for digital movie purchases. 

Imagine not having to leave the movie you’re watching to engage with it in a personal way. YouTube has features in place today that, if expanded, could make this a reality.

Use the timestamp sharing feature as a “moviemark”

The timestamp sharing feature on YouTube lets you share a link to a specific time in a movie. When that link is clicked, shared on social media, or embedded in a blog post, people who have access to the movie through YouTube can watch the start of the scene. Those who do not see a trailer for the movie that contains the scene.

Note: Access comes from renting or buying a movie on YouTube, or automatically from movies available for free on YouTube.

With a little development work, this feature could become a bookmark feature. The same way you can bookmark your favorite passages in Kindle books, you could “moviemark” your favorite scenes in movies you have access to on YouTube.

A moviemark could let me easily return to the start of my favorite sequence in Top Gun: Maverick, a movie I purchased on YouTube. Only one scene in the sequence is available on YouTube through Movieclips.

Enhance the clipping feature for a “Scenes” feature

The clipping feature on YouTube lets you clip sections of videos. The sections you clip are then saved to your Clips folder where you can view and share them. However, this feature is not available for movies, clips are limited to 60 seconds (shorter than most impactful movie scenes), and you can’t add clips to playlists (which prevents movie clip curation).

Making the clipping feature available for movies, lengthening clip time for movies, and letting playlists support clips would allow for movie engagement to happen at the scene level on YouTube. The clipping feature could effectively be repurposed, enhanced, and rebranded for movies as a Scenes feature. 

In terms of licensing, the feature would work the same way as the timestamp sharing feature. People who have access to the movie could watch a scene that is shared. Others might see a call-to-action that says “Buy or rent this movie to watch this scene”.

Use the existing clipping feature for movie marketing

Lengthening the time of clips to accommodate movie scenes while restricting scene access is just one opportunity with the clipping feature. Another opportunity is to keep clips to 60 seconds to support sections of scenes rather than entire scenes and make them accessible to anyone with an internet connection. This feature could be called the Movie Clips feature, supporting the idea of making a personalized, democratized version of Movieclips.

In addition to supporting movie engagement, this feature would support studios with a new marketing channel. It would be similar to the Quotes feature in Goodreads. LIke this feature is powered by readers who share passages from Kindle books, the Movie Clips feature would be powered by movie watchers who share clips from YouTube movies. 

This would turn YouTube into an integrated content and social platform for movies — similar to Kindle and Goodreads, but even better because it’s on a single platform. YouTube could even create awards for The Most Clipped Movies and Best Scenes of the Year. YouTube is uniquely positioned to enable this because it already houses both movie content and social features, unlike content-only movie platforms like Prime Video and social-only movie platforms like Letterboxd.

No doubt there will be hesitation from studios to allow this to happen, but, as Rich Raddon discovered with Movieclips, it’s better to legitimize fandom than throttle it. There is even an opportunity to reward fans for movie engagement.

Reward movie fans for engagement

YouTube users could clip, curate, and share content from movies to earn money for movie sales through a Movie Rewards program. This would also create buzz around the Movie Clips feature.

In a world where curators are the new creators and affiliate programs mostly exist for streaming subscription referrals rather than individual movies, a movie rewards program powered by curation is an interesting play that supports the micro influencer trend in influencer marketing. This trend is based on the thinking that smaller influencers (movie lovers on YouTube with thousands of followers) have greater influence in aggregate than a few mega influencers (movie critics on YouTube with millions of followers). 

A rewards program could inspire movie lovers to promote movies, help movies pick up second winds, and inspire more movie purchases on YouTube. That’s if YouTube competitors don’t hop on this opportunity first.

How startups and Amazon could seize this opportunity

Part of YouTube’s goal is to “work with content creators and partners to build new ways for people around the world to find great digital content.” 

This was written in last year’s SEC filing by Alphabet and still supports the 12-year-old idea behind Movieclips which led YouTube to partner with Rich Raddon’s startup and studios. It also supports this new idea of letting creators make their own movie clips. But YouTube would need to convince studios that this is a good idea. With other initiatives on their plate, this signals an opportunity for startups.

The opportunity for startups

Similar to how Rich Raddon convinced studios to publish movie scenes on movieclips.com before partnering with YouTube, a startup entrepreneur with Hollywood chops could convince studios to democratize the idea behind Movieclips on a dedicated movie platform. This platform could begin as an engagement platform for movie collectors and evolve into a creator platform for movie fans and influencers.

The startup Movies Anywhere is one example of a platform where this could happen. Their platform aggregates individual movie licenses that people have purchased across YouTube, Apple TV, Prime Video, and other “digital retail accounts,” making it irrelevant where you buy movies from. 

Further value could be created on this platform by adding simple engagement features like profile-specific moviemarks and clips. This would turn it into a lightweight version of Kindle for movies. It wouldn’t have sharing features, but it could create enough momentum to lead to an integration with YouTube, similar to how Kindle integrated with Goodreads after the Amazon acquisition. Still, studios would need to be on board with this.

The opportunity for Amazon

What’s interesting about Amazon is that it has a movie studio (Amazon Studios), a movie streaming platform (Prime Video), and a social platform for movies (IMDB). It also understands the importance of content engagement as the creator of Kindle.

Up to this point, it’s been assumed that every movie needs to be part of this new content engagement opportunity. But Amazon could build a set of engagement features into its streaming platform for movies it owns. Amazon could then open these features to Prime subscribers and let fans curate and share clips on IMDB. 

To streamline this, the Prime Video team could repurpose any relevant technology from Kindle. This aligns with what Amazon did with X-Ray, a reference tool originally released for Kindle in 2011. Similar to how X-Ray for Kindle “gives you a rundown of the people, places, and things in a digital book that is purchased from Amazon,” X-Ray for Prime Video gives you a rundown of the actors in a scene and other movie information on IMDB.

With a culture of content engagement already in place and a growing collection of movies through studio acquisitions like MGM, Amazon has the benefit over YouTube of not having to wait for studios to greenlight scene curation and sharing. Amazon also understands the idea of rewarding fans and creators with its Amazon Associates program.

Who will build a practical form of movie engagement?

Alphabet acknowledges that “other digital content and application platform providers such as Amazon and Apple are formidable competitors” (page 7), but Alphabet shut down YouTube Originals earlier this year while Amazon and Apple continue to build successful movie studios. YouTube still has the most engagement features in its video player, but it’s prioritizing YouTube Shorts as the demand for short form video content grows.

This leaves the field wide open for Prime Video, Movies Anywhere, and other platforms to move first on the opportunity to build the Kindle of movies.

This movie engagement idea is practical, too. Many startups and studios are focused on building movie engagement through Web3 and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). But NFTs are not understood or desired by most movie watchers. For example, at the time of this writing, there are 4,908 of 5,092 NFTs still available for The Fellowship of the Ring Web3 movie experience launched in October 2022. As one of the highest-rated films of all time, it’s safe to say that movie NFT adoption is slow or simply unwanted. 

Perhaps a better place to build for movie engagement is within the movie itself — with a simple set of engagement features and a clear benefit like saving, curating, and sharing the movie scenes you love. This seems like a realistic concept that could do for movies what Kindle did for books. The question is: which company will abandon chasing trends to realize something as practical as this?

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Categorized as Blog

By Robert Gibb

Practicing screenwriting and writer @ Scene Lift

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