Amazon and Disney in the US are still battling over disc split revenues, and Amazon is throwing its weight around on the matter.
If you’re the kind of person who still loves physical disc media, then firstly, welcome to the club. Secondly, if you’re someone who likes to preorder their physical disc media from Amazon, then you may over the past years have noticed a few little battles going on.
Note that this primarily affects Amazon US, rather than the UK. But it’s indicative of a quiet power struggle between two very rich companies.
Back in the summer of 2014, a story broke that Amazon and Warner Bros were ‘disagreeing’. A pricing dispute between the pair had bubbled into public view, with the two companies grumbling over how much of a slice of disc sales each should get. Amazon duly stomped its feet, and withdrew any preorders of Warner Bros films that it was listing on its site.
Amazon has form here. It’d already been in battles with book publishers over terms, going toe to toe with Hachette and cutting its orders of the firm’s titles.
Here’s a story from The Verge back in 2014 that explores this more. But basically, Amazon took the brunt of the criticism, with many arguing it was abusing its dominant market position. Peace eventually broke out.
But so have more battles. Later in the summer of 2014, Amazon ceased preorders of new Disney titles too. And whilst that was settled, fast forward five years – when both Amazon and Disney have become even bigger companies – and there’s a quiet battle still going on.
It affects people looking to preorder disc versions of brand new films (as opposed to catalogue titles) in the US, via the Amazon.com website. I’m indebted to John Archer and Chris Heinonen for spotting this on their Twitter accounts, but basically, the only way you can preorder Avengers: Endgame (and Aladdin 2019) via Amazon US is by opting for a digital version, sold via Prime Video.
This spat does not affect the UK.
What’s apparently going on is an argument about cash, inevitably. About who gets what slice of the pie. Neither side is budging.
In the case of Avengers: Endgame, Disney has the biggest movie of all time on its side, and probably rightly figures that if people want the disc, they’ll find a place to get the disc. Amazon, meanwhile, is by distance the most popular shopping site on the planet, and is not averse to throwing its considerable weight.
What’ll apparently happen is that Amazon.com will stock new Disney titles, but will only make them available for purchase on its site either on day of release, or immediately before. It presumably figures that by doing so, it’ll have an impact on sales, and Disney will come back to the table. The problem being, of course, that Disney sees its future less in physical media, more in its own Disney+ streaming service.
Whilst these two behemoths quietly slug it out, it seems the only ones to be inconvenienced are people who preorder discs from Amazon. That it’s the end consumer who is the only one really put out. To reiterate too, this is a purely US argument that’s going on, and Avengers: Endgame in all formats is available to order from Amazon’s UK store. Other etailers are available.
It’s a bit miserable, though. At a point where physical media needs all the support and friends it can get, it seems a bizarre time to put obstacles in the way of potential sales. But what do I know? I’m just a customer…