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Google Makes Big ‘Play’ for Movies

Launched less than four years ago, Google Play has already established itself as one of the home entertainment industry’s top retailers.

You read that right: retailers. Aside from serving as the official app store for the Android operating system, Google Play is a digital media store, a place where people who want a break from Netflix can buy movies or TV shows digitally, as soon as, or sooner than, they become available on disc — and long before they show up on Netflix or some other streaming service.

“Since our launch we have worked to constantly iterate and improve the experience for consumers,” says Jonathan Zepp, head of worldwide movie & TV partnerships. He will accept the Innovation Award on behalf of Google Play at the Variety Home Entertainment & Digital Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

“This includes establishing a global footprint. We are now selling movies in 117 countries, making us available in more markets than any other transactional service in the world right now. I expect we will see accelerated evolution in how movies are distributed and consumed over the next few years, and I think our partners and users appreciate our commitment to scaled reach and innovation.”

Zepp over the past five years has helped grow Google’s transactional electronic sell-through (EST) and video-on-demand (VOD) business on Google Play and YouTube. He’s played a key role in securing transactional partnerships with Disney, Fox, HBO, and Paramount, as well as launching EST in all markets.

Despite the dominance of Netflix — and the proliferation of streaming options — Zepp is convinced there’s a market for digital ownership. “The subscription streaming model offers a compelling value proposition for many users, but a lot of great content is not available in that model,” he says. “That is especially true for users who value earlier access to the most popular new release movies. I’d love to see the industry articulate the value proposition of the transactional model relative to subscription and ad-supported options, especially around content availability. We are thinking a lot about how to make this awareness more intuitive within our ecosystem.”

Content partnerships are “critical to our business,” maintains Zepp, who describes himself
as “an entertainment content enthusiast fortunate to find my way to Google at a time when the company was broadly considering how to think about entertainment content. We view our content partnerships as far broader and more important than supply alone. We are competing for consumer time and attention in a crowded space. We have established hundreds of content partnerships around the world.”

What’s next for Google Play? “We’re gearing up to launch 4K on Google Play Movies & TV,” Zepp says. “The format is gaining momentum with the proliferation of 4K-enabled living room devices, including Chromecast Ultra.”

This partnership rounds out a broad footprint of connected devices on which users can directly buy and access Google Play Movies & TV content. We also recently partnered with Samsung to make Google Play Movie & TV available on its connected 2016 TVs. We expect innovation in movie distribution to accelerate over the next few years and are looking forward to improving the experience for movie lovers.”

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