There are multiple ways to watch movies on airplanes. Some rely on the selection in the airline’s inflight entertainment system, while others load up on personal DVDs or download their favorite films prior to arriving at the gate. Others use Wi-Fi connectivity to stream movies while cruising at 30,000 feet.
For Blake Thomas, chief marketing officer at Digiboo, a three-year-old Santa Monica, California upstart backed by actor Morgan Freeman and others, none of those options really make sense for the traveler. And that’s why the former MGM Home Entertainment executive is so excited about Digiboo, which is officially launching service today at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Digiboo has installed 14 bright orange interactive touchscreen kiosks throughout the airport — some in old pay telephone stations — where customers can download “Hugo,” “Moneyball” and more than 700 other titles to a USB drive in less than a minute. The idea is that busy travelers don’t have the time to download movies before they get to the airport, or don’t want to pay the hefty fees for spotty inflight Wi-Fi access.
At Digiboo all customers need is a USB drive with 4 GB of storage and a Windows PC or tablet (Sorry Apple and Android fans, I am told Digiboo is still working on those versions of the service).
“Our whole concept is to create something that is really easy, really intuitive and straightforward,” Thomas tells GeekWire.
If you think you’ve seen this movie before, you’re right. Seattle tech watchers may recall MOD Systems, which tried to offer a similar media kiosk at airports and retail stores. The heavily-funded company imploded last year after founder Mark Phillips was sentenced to four years in prison for defrauding MOD Systems and lying to the court — one of the biggest blowups in recent memory in the Seattle tech community.
Of course, Digiboo — led by former RealNetworks general manager and movie exec Richard Cohen — believes it has discovered a much more viable path to delivering movies to people on the go.
Customers pay $3.99 to rent a new release for 30 days, with the customer required to view the title within 48 hours upon opening the movie. Older titles rent for $2.99, and customers can purchase movies outright for $14.99. First-time users of the service need an Internet connection in order to initiate service, a connection that’s provided through the kiosk terminals. (Customers also can make that initial connection at home or work prior to arriving at the airport).
According to Thomas, Digiboo’s media player doesn’t hog battery life like a DVD. Plus, he adds that a number of new devices are being built without optical drives, meaning the days of carrying DVDs may be numbered. (Of course, some devices, such as smartphones and the iPad, don’t have USB ports).
In terms of downloading movies ahead of time, Thomas said that’s just not “convenient” for many people. “You have to plan ahead, you have to queue them up, you have to make sure they are downloading, and depending on your speed you have to wait for quite a while,” said Thomas, adding that the entire transaction is designed to take a few minutes.
Digiboo launched in Minneapolis last week, with Seattle marking the company’s first airport on the West Coast. Portland will be next, with a fourth airport in the works. They chose Seattle because of a highly-educated and tech-savvy population, but also because of what Thomas called an “innovative airport.”
After the initial trials at the four airports, Thomas said they plan to take a 60-day hiatus to watch how the kiosks perform. If all goes as planned, Digiboo will push forward with a national launch that includes rolling out as many as 100 kiosks per month in airports across the country. The company is starting with airports, but could expand into other retail environments in what could be a direct attack on Coinstar’s Redbox.
I got a first-hand look at the new Digiboo kiosk from Thomas this week. Take a look, and let us know whether you’d give this a try on your next trip through Sea-Tac.