The digital movie service that’s closing today: new update

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Flixster closes in the UK today – and lots of people still haven’t managed to migrate their films.

Over the course of this past year, we’ve been following the story of both UltraViolet and now Flixster, two digital video services that each are shutting their doors.

A brief refresher. UltraViolet was the digital movie locker services, whereby when you bought a physical disc, and got a leaflet inside with a code printed on it. Redeeming that code got you a digital version of the film as well. But at the start of the year, it was announced that UltraViolet was shutting its doors. Don’t worry, we were assured. We wouldn’t be losing access to our films.

The thing is though that UltraViolet provided a ‘locker’ for the films, and you needed to link it to another service to actually play and download them. The last one left standing in the UK was Flixster. And, wouldn’t you know it, over the summer, Flixster confirmed it was closing too.

On the upside, it said that titles would be migrated to Google Play, although it covered itself with language suggesting that most, not all films would be covered. And at first, there were dozens upon dozens of titles that weren’t going across. It looked like people would simply lose their digital films altogether. The analogy being that it’d be like someone coming into your home and taking your movies away.

Flixster’s customer service team seemed wrong-footed by just how many titles were affected, and it took a long time to get any answers. About two months in fact, when people suddenly got an email out of the blue confirming that the vast majority of titles were now available to migrate from Flixster to Google Play.

The problem, though, is today is the day marked for the closure of Flixster Video in the UK, and there are still films that aren’t going across. That Flixster has sent out final reminder notices to people, but it looks like a lot of films are going to be lost. From my own personal collection of films, I’m still waiting for customer support to tell me why movies such as Giant and Suspicion aren’t available.

UPDATE: I’ve had a response from Flixster customer service today – the day of closure. It writes: “We are writing to let you know that if your issue is regarding migrating your titles to Google Play, we will be able to support you even after the Flixster Video shutdown on December 18, 2019. Currently, we are experiencing a higher than usual volume of requests and could be significantly longer than usual to respond to your request. We apologize for this inconvenience.”

I put out a call on Twitter to find out other titles affected. I’m hearing that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (the Fincher version), plus extended versions of Spider-Man 3 and Ghostbusters (2016) are also affected. Trolls is a film that’s not carrying across either, notable that the film is now owned by a different distributor than when it was originally released. Quite a few BBC titles I’ve heard are affected as well (Doctor Who: Day Of The Doctor is coming up a lot).

Worryingly, some people have much longer lists, and are getting zero response from Flixster customer services.

Anecdotally, I’m hearing that if films on your list won’t migrate to Google Play for some reason – presumably to do with rights – then replacements are being offered. This isn’t an official company line, though, and is only offered if you contact customer service direct. But again, said customer service aren’t being particularly quick about replying.

To be clear, then: if you haven’t migrated your collection by the end of December 18th 2019, then you’ve lost all your digital films contained within it. Every one. Gone. But more than that, as things stand, there are films that remain available in Google Play, that users are not being allowed to migrate. Moreover, no solution is being automatically offered. The only sign is that you get a flag when you load your library up.

The website you need to migrate remains This is likely to shut down next week.

What’s disappointing about all of this is that there hasn’t been a wider industry interest in making sure this all goes as smoothly as possible. That there’s a consumer confidence issue here. Today, there are firms offering their films available as digital downloads ‘to buy and keep’. But where’s the security in that? How can any company offer that as an ongoing assurance, and what backup plan does it offer if its own business goes awry?

It’s imperative that if consumers are to be encouraged – as is the case – to build legal download libraries of films, that the risk of that is on the side of the industry, not the customer. That there has to be some industry-wide plan to cover the fact that the rights to movies change hands, that companies may go under, that businesses come and go.

The bottom line is: if a customer buys a digital film, with the promise of being able to keep it, they are able to keep it. As simple as that.

And that’s why this whole Flixster mess matters. That the service announcement came out with the rights to hundreds of titles still up in the air was ridiculous and wrong. That, days before the service shuts its doors for good, customers are still facing losing their films, with the onus purely on them – rather than the company – to raise this as an issue, is pitiful.

I’ll keep you posted if anything changes or develops over the coming days. But if you’ve ever used Flixster, the onus is on you – not them, bizarrely – to transfer your films over. And you’ve not got much time left…

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