The new MoviefoneThe classics never go out of style… as long as they get a digital facelift now and then.

We wrote earlier this year about the demise of Moviefone, that old favorite service that provided cinema-goers with a memorable number to call for movie times and info.

Well, it’s back this month, with a reboot for the digital age courtesy of AOL.


Redesigned for Digital

Moviefone’s new incarnation is a very different animal. It’s raison d’être is similar, of course, but the service’s remit is greatly expanded.

Visitors can now browse for TV information as well as movies, demonstrating not only the resurgence of television relative to film, but also the amalgamation of different entertainment forms under the “streaming” umbrella. The two still merit distinct sections, but it’s clear that home viewers now weigh up binge watching a few episodes of their favorite TV series in the same thought as considering a full movie. 

The site also brings in the ‘discovery’ element that digital has added to our entertainment decisions. Where as previously word-of-mouth and print publication recommendations took the strain of helping viewers decide what to watch before they searched for information, now the recommendations, search and decision-making often happen in the same breath.

This makes services like Moviefone as reliant on their own ability to curate content now, as they once were on serving up unbiased entertainment information.


Next Up, Original Content Wars?

It’s interesting that AOL is behind the Moviefone reboot, as the company itself has found an urgent need to redefine its role in digital entertainment.

The second logo for AOL, used from 2006–2009

The second logo for AOL, used from 2006–2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Starting out life online as more of an Internet Service Provider for customers who used its portal to browse the web, AOL was overtaken by more open browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, and eventually Google’s Chrome. With a declining user base the company reinvented itself as something of a media hub, with acquisitions like Techcrunch and Huffington Post defining this move to eyeballs over access points.

AOL furthered this pivot recently, with the news that it will partner with Miramax to deliver free movies via an ad-supported model. It’s just one partnership in a slew of recent on-demand viewing announcements, as major brands in the technology and media space position themselves to deliver exclusive content that draws in viewers. At the cutting edge of this jockeying is expensive original content, produced by the likes of Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon.

Though partnerships and acquisitions permit a certain amount of exclusivity, only creating original content truly guarantees any of these developing digital media hubs full control over programming rights. Some series have been hit and miss, to date, but the runaway success of ‘House of Cards’ as a flagship title for Netflix has blazed the trail for the deep pockets of Amazon, AOL and others to follow.

While Moviefone’s reboot is only one piece in a much larger puzzle, it does show the need for media technology companies to control not only the right programming, but the means to influence viewers in the direction of that content.

This is the just the very beginning of a massive overhaul for online entertainment, leaving many existing streaming sites pondering whether or not they need a digital facelift of their own to compete.



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