Warner Bros. is bringing movie rentals to Facebook, the first Hollywood studio to turn to the fast-growing social network as an online platform for its films.
"The Dark Knight," the 2008 Batman thriller directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, will be the first movie offered for rental on Facebook, the studio said, and can be watched at facebook.com/darkknight.
The rental fee is 30 Facebook Credits, or $3, and the movie can be viewed unlimited times during a 48-hour period, the Time Warner-owned studio said in a statement.
For the moment, only Facebook members in the United States can rent the movie.
Hollywood studios have been looking at various services to distribute movies online, including Amazon, Netflix, Apple's iTunes, Hulu, YouTube and others, but Warner Bros. is the first to offer its film on Facebook, which has more than 500 million members around the world.
Shares in Netflix, which offers movies and television shows to subscribers over the Internet, took a hit on the news of Warner Bros.' deal with Facebook and lost 5.76 percent to $195.45 on Wall Street.
Netflix shares also fell last month after the Seattle, Washington-based online retail giant Amazon launched its own movie and television show streaming service.
Warner Bros. described the Facebook move as an experiment but said additional movie titles will be available for rental and purchase on a regular basis "over the coming months."
"Facebook has become a daily destination for hundreds of millions of people," said Thomas Gewecke, president of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution.
"Making our films available through Facebook is a natural extension of our digital distribution efforts," Gewecke said.
"It gives consumers a simple, convenient way to access and enjoy our films through the world's largest social network," he said.
Warner Bros. said Facebook users will be able to comment on the movie, interact with friends and update their status while watching the film.
Video is already hugely popular on Facebook with tens of millions of members swapping clips daily but little of the video currently being viewed is long-form content such as movies.
Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer, said the movie rentals are an attempt by Facebook to broaden its revenue sources beyond advertising, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the social network's revenue.
"Facebook is still looking for other revenue streams to back its core advertising business," Williamson said.
"Facebook Credits will slowly increase its proportion of total revenue in the coming years, and this deal shows Facebook isn't content to hinge the success of Credits solely on virtual sales in social games," she said.
"However, this is clearly an experiment. Facebook is exploring many different markets right now, and it's not necessarily going to be successful in all of them," Williamson said.
Source: AFP Global Edition