A No-Go for M-Go Video Rental Service

It's great to offer thousands of movie and TV titles to stream, but at some point you can't see the forest for the trees; it's hard to decide which movie to watch. That's why movie services and media streaming devices from the new Samsung Smart TVs to the newest Google TV upgrade have been touting that they have a better way to search for titles and recommend movies you'll like. At CES 2012, I sat down with the CEO of M-Go for an exciting discussion about how their video rental app would have superior search and recommendation algorithms that were better than that of any other service. Unfortunately, when M-Go launched earlier this year it had no resemblance to the picture that had been painted for me last year.

Because M-Go is a video rental and purchasing service, there are no monthly subscription fees. Like Vudu, Cinema Now, Blockbuster, Amazon Instant Video, or iTunes, it is a pay-to-play service. The M-Go app is available on Vizio and Samsung Smart TVs. The Vizio Co-Star, stand-alone Google TV, has an M-Go button on its remote. I've been using the Co-Star to check out M-Go since its January launch and have yet to find a reason to use the service instead of my go-to favorite, Vudu.

M-Go was formed by Technicolor, a company used by most motion picture studios to process film from the time movies were shot in color. Because of its classic Hollywood roots, it was to have superior technology that, I was told, could offer superior search and recommendations of movie and TV titles. The company had hired "brilliant" developers who created complex algorithms that could break down a movie genre in depth—possibly at the level of the music genomes used to create stations in Pandora. Watching Shrek would bring up more than recommendations of kiddie films and animated movies. It might bring up films with a strong female lead, or comedies about knights and dragons. The plan for superior recommendations included a menu that prioritized movies using floating cover art that was larger for movies that might be more suited to the user.

None of those goals are apparent in the final version of M-Go. When you first create an account, you are offered film titles to rate with "loved it," "liked it," "didn't like it," or "haven't seen it." The idea is that M-Go will know your likes and dislikes better as your rate more movies, and will be able to make spot-on recommendations. Yet, each time I go through M-Go's movie recommendations, there are more titles that I wouldn't want to watch than those that I would. In contrast, the Primetime app on Google TV displays movies that I would love. I just can't see how M-Go has used their technology for better search and recommendation. What's more, the floating cover menu idea was replaced with a common carousel that displays only a few titles at a time.

As for better search functionality, the app will graciously list where to watch a movie if it is not available through M-Go. Global search features on the Roku 3, or on Google TV, allow you to click on a search result that takes you directly to the movie on that particular service—Vudu, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video. M-Go, however, simply lets you know where you can find it. You'll have to open that app and again search for the title in that app.

And, while I hate beating a dead horse, another problem I had when using M-Go has been with offers for discounted prices and specials. Although I have created a new account where the movies are stated to be 99 cent rentals for the first month, or I've entered a discount code at checkout, I later discover that I had been charged full price.

Who would want to use M-Go? The service is perfect for families who each have different movie preferences. What is unique to M-Go is the ability to add more than one user in the same app/account. My recommendations might be heavy on chick flicks and classic comedies, but recommendations for my son might be populated with super-hero movies and zombies. Also, you can play your Ultraviolet library of digital film copies using the M-Go app (and buy more titles in M-Go to save to Ultraviolet).

Perhaps, it's the old adage of "...no fury like a woman scorned." I was truly excited about M-Go's potential and disappointed that they didn't fulfill their promises. The technology is there, perhaps it will improve in future updates. For now, it's convenient to press the M-Go button and, if it has the movie I want, I can play it there. More likely I'll opt for the 7.1 channel Dolby Digital audio and 1080p video quality I can get from Vudu HDX movies.

SeattleSunrise's picture

Great conversation with M-GO recently. I asked “why do you need my credit card number if you are going to offer me something for free? It would be like me standing on the street telling people I will give them something for free if they give me their credit card number. I would probably get arrested.” I got a canned response from Shannon Cowart that basically said “Because you have to” and “trust us”
Darryll said that he assured me that no charges would be made to my credit card. I told him that I have found lots of instances of people complaining that M-Go was making fraudulent charges on credit cards and asked if he would be willing to pay me $10 for each complaint of credit card fraud I could find. In fine customer service fashion, he refused to reply to any more of my email messages. It may have been because I asked him to send me his credit card information. I said “trust me, I promise not to charge anything on it and will protect the information with a safe password”. Isn’t if funny. They want your credit card number for no reason, but as soon as you ask for theirs…..
As far as security for all those stored credit card numbers, I was told by Shannon that M-Go practices “Safe Password Protection for all account information” So, really, if you have one disgruntled worker with the ‘Safe Password’, everyone’s credit card info would be up for grabs.
I asked the Customer Service Manager, Traci Lamm, if they felt their servers were more secure than the hacked Federal Reserve, Target, Department of Homeland Security, Facebook, Adobe, Yahoo, and Microsoft servers. I asked to view my two free movies by the terms outlined on the relentless spam they send out, of which, none say they are collecting credit card information to store on a “password safe” server. I thought that M-Go should at the bare minimum comply with the small print on their own spam. Lastly, I asked for their data retention policy (If I did not like M-Go after watching my two free movies, how long does my credit card information stay on their server). Traci responded with “Your account has been closed”
In the last email I received from Traci before they asked me to quit bothering them about consumer protection, he/she stated that “We do not store credit card information on our servers” I found that really, really interesting. If I were to subscribe to the service, my assumption is that everytime I watch a movie, I would NOT have to enter my credit card information each time I click play. Now, not only are they flippant with consumer protection by collecting as many credit card numbers as they can, but their customer service manager, Traci Lamm is just blatantly lying about it. This is a dangerous, dangerous company to trust with your credit information. Beware.