“What do you for recreation?” “Oh, the usual. I bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback” And a movie on Facebook.

Yep, fans of His Dudeness can stream The Big Lebowski on Facebook with a handful of Facebook Credits (30 ($3)) – courtesy of Universal and Milyoni‘s ‘Social Theater‘ – a Facebook PPV (pay-per-view) streaming app.

The Face-flix movie runs in full-screen mode, and offers a number of social features – sharing of clips, sharing of favorite quotes, personal comments at points in time in the movie, and integrated chat (using LiveStream).  And it uses Facebook’s “Buy With Friends” feature – allowing friends of fans who rent the movie on Facebook to rent the movies themselves at a discounted rate.

It all sounds interesting, but why would fans want to rent The Big Lebowski for 48hrs on Facebook?  Why would they want to stream a movie they almost certainly already own, or could get on-demand with their $8/month all-you-can-eat movie rental subscription?  Three possible answers

  1. Universal are hoping that the social features that Milyoni has built into the social theater app will be enough of a novelty to entice a PPV fee from a proportion of the movie’s 1m fans
  2. Universal are using PPV FB streaming as a PR stunt to promote the new Blue-ray edition of the movie going on sale in traditional channels via links on the movie’s FB page
  3. Universal are looking to learn what is possible, what works – and what doesn’t – with social streaming.  Milyoni has wisely attached a ‘beta’ label to their ‘social theater’ – it’s impressive but a work in progress, and as such may be more of a pilot to test viability and demand

Whatever the actual answer, and it may be a combination of all three, we’re very bullish about the opportunities for PPV fan-streaming in Facebook – whether gigs, sports, movies, launches or other events.  In the next month or so, Milyoni’s social theater will be used for PPV fan streaming of 20-30 other movies.  Expect this space to grow – if the pricing and experience can beat that of Netflix and its $8/month price ticket.

If we were Universal (or Warner Bros who are already renting movies direct on Facebook) –  we’d be looking to offer exclusive fan-content rather than just the regular movie – think fan-featurettes, exclusive out-takes, interviews etc. We believe social-streaming has to find its own differentiated and complementary space to regular rentals – and we think that the answer is to use Facebook as Fan Media – offering special content for fans.

If movie studios were to treat Facebook as fan-media, then adding a Facebook fan-store selling movie merchandise would be a no-brainer too (as would VIP theater-ticketing for fans (as offered by Sony and Disney) and DVD sales on Facebook) and Universal should just do it. Dude.