Sept. 26--Do consumers need yet another digital-video service for viewing purchased and rental movies and TV shows on their various electronic devices?
Minneapolis-based Target Corp. clearly believes so. This week it debuts Target Ticket, which is going up against well-established digital-video services such as Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Wal-Mart'sVudu and Apple's iTunes Store.
And while this might seem like a tall order for the discount retailer, some industry observers think Target Ticket has a chance -- that it is not too late to the game.
"That's because the watching of television shows and movies online is new, and still has not completely permeated American culture," said Fordham University professor and new-media expert Paul Levinson. "Until this happens ... there will be room for newcomers with slightly different approaches."
Target Ticket isn't exactly breaking new ground.
Like its competitors, Target Ticket allows users to buy or rent feature films and TV episodes. These videos can then be streamed, downloaded, or both, depending on the device.
Target Ticket is said to work with Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, Macintosh and Windows computers, Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming console, Roku video-streaming boxes for TVs, and Samsung-branded HDTVs and Blu-ray-disc players. And this compatible-device list will grow, Target said.
Target claims about 30,000 video titles with prices as low as 99 cents.
These range from the "World War Z" and "Star Trek Into Darkness" recent blockbuster movies and premium-television shows like "Game of Thrones" and "Homeland" to next-day episodes of broadcast and standard-cable TV shows like "The Walking Dead," and "The Big Bang Theory." Such selections are in line with what rival digital-video services offer, but Target claims some exclusive bonus footage in certain movies.
In addition, Target is giving its REDcard credit card holders 5 percent discounts on certain video purchases -- consistent with the discounts received when shopping at Target stores.
It is also making a small selection of movies free to all comers, who can select up to 10. The free flicks are offered in an Ultraviolet format that retailers, movie studios, cable companies, consumer-electronics manufacturers and others are embracing as a way to make video content readily available online.
Target also has partnered with Common Sense Media, a nonprofit provider of movie and TV-show reviews, to help parents find content that is right for their children. This, the retailer said, makes it easier for households to customize what material is viewable by way of content ratings, content filters and multiple family-member profiles.
Some regard Target Ticket as a defensive play. After all, larger discount archrival Wal-Mart has been somewhat successful with Vudu, which it bought in 2010. Amazon.com has a hit in its Amazon Instant Video, which goes hand in hand with the online retailer's popular Kindle Fire tablets in the same way Apple and Google wed their video services to their mobile devices.
Target Ticket and its competitors also are different from the likes of Hulu and Netflix, which charge flat fees for access to large libraries of streaming-video content instead of providing videos a la carte for rental or purchase.
Target isn't the first Minnesota-based retailer to dip its toes into the digital-video market. Best Buy rolled out a similar service called Roxio CinemaNow in 2010, but this offering never morphed into an Apple- or Amazon-caliber megahit.
Don't count Target Ticket out, said David Spark of Spark Media Solutions, a brand consulting firm for tech companies.
"There is tons of opportunity to win," Spark said. "Can you figure out a user experience that is seamless across all platforms -- Netflix definitely has pulled that off -- but also has access to all on-demand content you could possible want?
"No one has that," he said. "Pull those two off, and you win."
(c)2013 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)
Visit the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) at www.twincities.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services