Traction for The Dark Knight Leads Warner Bros to Rent More Films Via Facebook

Warner Bros has expanded its test of renting films through Facebook, adding “Watch” tabs to Pages for five more films. Since its release on March 8th, 98,330 users have engaged with the “Watch The Dark Knight” app hosting the original test of the streaming service. The streaming app for the additional films, developed by Milyoni, has not been changed to bring Facebook’s social features any closer to the viewing experience.

The five films to receive renting capabilities are “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, “Inception”, “Life as We Know It”, and “Yogi Bear.” The inclusion of both complicated, more adult films and family films may help Warner Bros determine if a specific audience type is more receptive to Facebook rentals.

The near 100,000 users of the Dark Knight app, according to Facebook’s Open Graph protocol, only represent 1.6% of The Dark Knight Page’s total fans, and we can’t tell how many actually paid the 30 Facebook Credits, or $3, to rent the film. Still, the traction was apparently sufficient to warrant further testing.

The rate at which The Dark Knight’s Page has been adding fans has slightly increased from roughly 10,000 to 17,000 new fans a day during March, according to PageData, our fan growth tracking service. This indicates the streaming rentals may have somewhat increased virality. Note that the Page grew 1.8 million fans between March 14th and 18th, but that this is likely due to unofficial Dark Knight Pages being folded into the official Page.

Warner Bros could do much more to stimulate mentions of the rental service, though. Users can click Facebook and Twitter share buttons within the streaming app, but can’t compose their own updates from scratch, or leave any sort of public comments while viewing.

The addition of Facebook’s Comments Box social plugin, the option to chat with other viewers, or a persistent status update field could help the Warner Bros film rental service gain more visibility in the news feed, drawing in new customers. The ability to gift a rental to a friend, or watch a film simultaneously with friends using different computers could also drive sales.

Before the film studio concludes its test of the value of offering streaming rentals through the social network, it needs to make sure its app takes advantage of all of Facebook’s viral channels. Users aren’t watching in a silent theater or alone on their couch  — they’re a click away from discussing the film with all their friends. Watching films on Facebook could be a whole new social experience, but Warner Bros or any other long-form content distributor will need design their apps to promote interaction with friends.

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