(To our readers in Sweden: There's a little summer gift waiting for you in the end of the article.)
As filesharing, piracy, copyright and privacy issues, and the future of media in whole being the current hot topics, I sat down with Peter Alvarsson, Founder and COO Headweb, to hear his thoughts as an industry player dealing with the changing market space.
Headweb is a Swedish startup offering movies online for both rent and download. The company was founded 2006 being the first legal service to offer DRM-free downloads. Not just that, they also engourage and reward filesharing using a custom P2P technology to deliver downloads. The service is platform independent, by so far one of a kind in Sweden, running smoothly both on Windows, Mac and Linux.
Headweb is a premium service charging average $3 / $13 per movie (rent/download). The company is backed up by angel investors and has today a team of 10 people with offices in both Stockholm and Gothenburg.
Having his background within media and media distribution industry, Peter decided there had to be another way to distribute digital content without all the restrictions brought by DRM. Rather than protecting against piracy, he considers DRM as counter productive limiting both the user experience and freedom of choice regarding platform. Therefore, instead of DRM, Headweb uses invisible watermarking protecting the copyright.
Just like in the case of Spotify and the music industry, negotiating the legal rights take time, not to mention considerable financing. Headweb is today actually paying the movie industry while enabling them to earn more money in the new economy. How wicked doesn't that sound?
It has been a struggle to convince the industry to accept DRM-free downloads for the good of the customer. The service also uses Flash which still is largely not accepted as media platform by the movie industry. The recent implementation of more approved Silverlight is ment to be helping out to soften up the deals.
For Headweb it's all about freedom of choice, freedom for user to consume online media whenever, wherever and with a device of ones choice. The technology is already here and the consumer behaviour of online video only keeps increasing, merely demanding to have all content available online.
To quote Peter: "Great things take time. Changing an industry takes even longer."
The more you share and participate the more you profit
Users who help out distributing the downloaded movies get rewarded by earning credits which are valid as payment in the store. You can also earn credits by writing comments, rating the movies and marketing the service using embeddable banners. Streaming a movie can be done either in the client or directly in the browser, with Flash 9.0 being the only requirement.
To download a movie you need the Headweb client. When downloaded you can watch the movie with any regular DVD Player software. The service is currently available only in Sweden due to licensing and copyright issues, but is planning to open up in rest of the Nordic countries in the near future. You can pay with both credit card and SMS (Swedish only). You can also load your account with cash to avoid using credit card or SMS with every purchase.
Being a movie freak I of course tried out the service, both downloading and streaming. As Mac user I must say it was a pleasent experience and worked fine and fast both in the browser and in the client (Bandwidth 8 Mbit, minimum requirement being 2 Mbit). My wish list contains better sorting options together with IMDB link and rating on all movies, as well as sorting option by IMDB rating. On the other hand I appreciate nice features such as an easy way to view other movies an actor/actress belongs to, as the search function managing English titles on the movies with Swedish translated titles.
What's next for Headweb
Headweb has today a library of approx. 1 500 titles, the goal being to double the size. Besides from expanding outside Sweden the company is working on Plex and dlna integrations to be able to support other devices than computers. It's only matter of time until Apple iTunes expands its movie distribution to a wider range of countries and increases the competition. Alone in Sweden there are seven other online movie services with various quality according to recent review (in Swedish), all working only on Windows platform though. Just last week Sweden also got a new player, Voddler, in the field claiming to be a new Spotify for movies. It's launching in beta, remaining to be seen whether it will live up to its words.
When asking Peter to list the most important qualifications for an entrepreneur, I got the not so surprising answer: Determination and prepared to work long hours. No doubt that's what it takes to change an industry.
Summer gift (Sweden only)
And now to the fun part! For all the ArcticStartup fans in Sweden, Headweb is kindly offering one free movie for rent OR download. Use campaign code "arcticstartup" at check out. Enjoy!