Movies Anywhere has proven to be one of the most pro-consumer things to emerge from the entertainment world in ages. You buy a movie on one digital service, and then you get to watch it across numerous other services and hardware platforms. It’s one of those cases where “it just works” actually rings true — though Paramount Pictures, MGM, and Lionsgate deserve to be shamed in perpetuity for never getting behind the cross-studio effort.
But occasionally there’s news that makes me at least a little worried about the future of Movies Anywhere. Take today, for example: as noted by Cord Cutters News, Disney-owned Movies Anywhere has announced that it will end its Screen Pass feature as of May 1st. Screen Pass allowed Movies Anywhere users to share eligible titles from their library with friends for free.
“For Screen Passes sent prior to May 1st, recipients will still be able to accept and finish watching the movie before their passes expire. As of June 1st, the Screen Pass feature will no longer be supported,” Movies Anywhere posted on its website.
The Watch Together co-watching functionality is also being shut down on June 1st. I’m curious if we’ll start seeing more of this from other streaming services as covid lockdowns move further into the rear-view mirror.
Disney didn’t give a direct reason for why it’s removing either feature, only saying, “We are committed to focusing on an experience which highlights the things our users are most passionate about, primarily growing their collections and watching their favorite movies across platforms and devices.” If you read into that, it sounds like a lot of people just weren’t using Screen Pass.
Movies Anywhere had some requirements that customers had to meet before they could share titles in the first place. Screen Pass was only available to those who purchased “a Movies Anywhere movie or a non-promotional digital code every 18 months,” and even then, not all titles were eligible to be shared.
My hope is that this just represents Disney being more conservative with its spending around Movies Anywhere instead of any broader long-term implications for the movie locker in the cloud. Streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, Peacock, and others have already caused enough fragmentation. Keep movies simple. Please.