Transforming Network Infrastructure Industry News

[April 04, 2006]

Movie studios are now selling downloadable films

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 4--For the first time, Hollywood movie studios are selling downloadable films that consumers can keep on their computers and watch anytime.

The movies, through the studio-supported sites Movielink.com and CinemaNow.com, are a response to Internet piracy and the increased market for downloaded video. The market has been boosted by faster home computer connections, the sales of video-ready iPods and other digital media players, and the increase in viral video services such as YouTube.com.

Starting yesterday, six studios -- MGM, Paramount, Sony, Fox, Universal and Warner Bros. -- began selling films via Movielink on the same day their DVDs were available at retail hubs. Today, it will offer downloads of "Brokeback Mountain," the same day its DVD is released.

About 300 movies -- including new releases and older films, such as "The Big Lebowski" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" -- are available for roughly $20 to $30.

Working with Sony, MGM and Lionsgate, CinemaNow began selling an additional 85 films through its similar download plan.

With most of the new films, the Movielink downloads will cost a few dollars more than the DVDs sold at Wal-Mart and other retailers, protecting that traditional business model. Customers who download the films are paying for convenience and portability, movie executives said yesterday.

"We're trying to allow consumers to build a digital library for the first time," said Movielink CEO Jim Ramo. "They don't have to bring a lot of DVDs in a suitcase with them when they're on the road."

There are some limitations to consider. Digital Rights Management (DRM) software in the Movielink downloads will keep them from working on video iPods or other portable players. Owners can burn one copy of each film onto a DVD, but for now they will play only on a computer, not in a regular DVD player. Films will play on only up to three PCs.

The downloads also will not include the popular commentaries, deleted scenes and other extras included in DVD releases. It takes about an hour to download each film.

Studio officials stressed yesterday that only films that have already been to theaters will be released for download services. The major Hollywood studios are still keeping the roughly four-month gap open between theatrical and retail releases of films, which exhibitors say is necessary to assist box-office receipts.

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