MUBI: A hand-picked leader for the next phase of streaming

Disney this week announced its flagship streaming service, Disney+ had lost ground, losing 4 million subscribers in the first quarter of this year, dropping to 157.8 million from 161.8 million. In contrast, as an emergent underdog, MUBI, the streaming service that offers curated cinema to film lovers, has had an outstanding few months. From an analysts’ perspective, it looks like the monumental growth in streaming may be over. What is wide open for the taking however is customer acquisition from other streaming services that are simply not delivering the right value to customers. We take a look at the MUBI proposition and what promising prospects this highly environment as we head into this next phase of differentiation in the streaming landscape.

MUBI: Marketing

So what is MUBI’s deal? MUBI is a self-professed curation station – for cinema lovers, curated by cinema lovers. Its hand-picked titles offers a spectacular array of films varying in genre and reach, delivering it right into an audiences’ hands. Its unique proposition is a 30 day window from which a film is available on its platform to be consumed, after which it either disappears entirely or retires to MUBI’s permanent library to be accessed later.

It must be noted that while the ‘streaming wars’ have taken off, MUBI has managed to strike that balance between art and business and maintain its essence and integrity throughout. In any commercial war, it’s generally the creatives that tend to get left behind, but MUBI counteracts this view with its dedication to the art of film. From its early days as an art house streaming platform, its expanded offering to blend the cinema experience with streaming was genius with MUBI GO, while the Notebook publication offers such unique commentary for cinephiles that it’s almost like the whispered opinion of a cinema steward who has seen all the films on show that week and is dishing out his opinions – it’s a real experts’ corner and it would do well to double down on this trajectory. 

What makes it a unique proposition moving forward? We’ll look at this in more detail further on but in summary, MUBI’s options are endless and the competitive advantage is its expertise, that customers can trust. Customers are starting to realise that they are parting with their hard earned cash for lousy tentpole films and mediocre sequels. By virtue of its historical expertise, it can also essentially “remarket” the past with its distribution rights to a variety of older, more niche films, ones that have perhaps been forgotten about. A new market with customer acquisition beyond typical cinephiles is also on the cards as customers seek out better value for money, and will go to the experts to do so.

Distribution: MUBI in Lights

MUBI is also a film distributor in its own right and its runaway success of 2022 (among other significant titles) was Aftersun, the beautiful father-daughter drama with Paul Mescal playing the emotionally stunted man trying to express the inexpressible, whilst taking his eleven year old daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) on a holiday that she’ll remember forever. Wrestling with a guilt so overpowering from not being able to provide adequately for his daughter and estranged wife, we see him despondently balancing this world and the next. The films’ advert has a telling, final say where Sophie proclaims in childish innocence hoping to elongate her holiday indefinitely “I wish we could stay here for longer.” Mescal agrees wholeheartedly with a solemn, “me too,” referring of course to his presence in her life. That sentiment captured the essence of the film perfectly. It was a fantastic success, earning an Oscar nomination for its young star, cementing MUBI’s status as distributor that can push its content out there of its own accord on its streaming platform to bolster views.

The business of: MUBI

So what strategic marketing and brand opportunities are still open to MUBI in the future? 

  • Content Marketing – Netflix is the leader of the pack in terms of content marketing – it has to be because of its high-investment in original content, which requires innovative approaches to get customers to click through and watch a show they haven’t heard of before. MUBI is unique in that it retrospectively picks films from the archives, meaning that titles need to be infused with a new lease of life. Innovative approaches and a heavier focus on content marketing to get customers to click through and watch a movie they may not have heard of before but are willing to do so through an expert lens, will be the next frontier.
  • Gamify it – Gamification is what generates consistent customer engagement. With MUBI’s unique proposition of a 30 day window to watch a movie, there is space to introduce a MUBI leaderboard, this could be ranked not just on movies watched but on specific auteur collections (eg. I just finished every Paul Schrader film in the “God’s Lonely Man” category. This will create more loyalty and squeeze that engagement window.
  • Trailer Talk – As with TikTok and YouTube shorts, MUBI can take advantage of a similar approach to provide customers with short but compelling videos of films they may need their arm twisted in an innovative way to be watched.
  • Cinephile Chats – Cinephiles are highly opinionated, so a tiered membership system or an open reviewing system a la Letterboxd would be a smart next move.
  • Exclusive Events – As a streamer doubling as a distributor, there is no end to the amount of in person and online events to promote a movie, pairing MUBI GO’s in person concept to double up on viewings will be an essential next step as people miss the picture houses and crave that in person experience.

The Future: MUBI 2.0

In terms of MUBI’s prospects for its market position and wider streaming market, it’s evident that the company is on a unique growth track that is in line with the market dynamics of the shift from linear television and cinemas to streamed entertainment. A function of this transition has meant that a customer’s choice of service is defined by their taste. As humans, we like to be divided into groups with likeminded people and it’s likely that this need for curated, personalised content will feed heavily into the next phase in d the streaming wars. And we’re already seeing that with the likes of MUBI who offer “hand-picked cinema” for art-house film fans. Customers will self-select into their preferred group that reflects their interests. With multiple providers offering a variety of content, how can customers know what service is right for them? As much as the finance heads don’t want to admit it, the correct execution of a marketing strategy is absolutely imperative in this field as each platform must clearly distinguish its content from its neighbour.

As humans, we like to be divided into groups with likeminded people and it’s likely that this need for curated, personalised content will feed heavily into the next phase of the streaming wars. The first phase was primarily the rush to adapt all content to streaming and create a minimum viable product for market. To differentiate, marketing is absolutely imperative for this next phase as each platform must clearly distinguish its content from its neighbour. Customers will self-select into their preferred group that reflects their interests and the allure of ‘hand-picked cinema’ that tends to the need for personalisation in the modern world, certainly has a head start.

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