April 3, 2006, 12:00 AM

Studios go online to sell digital versions of movies

Hollywood studios today began selling movies for download through two online services—Movielink.com and CinemaNow.com. Both Movielink and CinemaNow previously offered video-on-demand rental services.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce


Hollywood studios today began selling movies for download through two online services-Movielink.com and CinemaNow.com. Both Movielink and CinemaNow previously offered video-on-demand rental services.

Movielink will be selling digital versions of recently released movies from MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal and Warner Brothers. In many cases, the movies will be available for purchase on the same date the studio releases the DVD.

CinemaNow will be selling movies for download for Sony Pictures, MGM, and LionsGate.

At the Movielink site, consumers can obtain from the “purchase” store a license for unlimited viewing of a movie. The movie may be permanently stored on the hard drive to create a permanent archive, or burned to a disc in Windows Media format for backup or playback on up to two additional tethered computers.

Consumers also can download movies to a notebook computer for traveling. Using a Media Center Edition PC, consumers can stream their copy of the movie to a TV set connected to a media center extender or Xbox.

Universal Studio’s Brokeback Mountain will be the first major title released by Movielink on the same day the DVD goes on sale, the company said. Other movies that will be available during 2006 included King Kong, Pride & Prejudice, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Walk the Line.

At CinemaNow, customers can choose from 85 premium movies for prices ranging from $9.95 to $19.95 for unlimited playback on the download device. All content will be copy protected by Microsoft’s Windows Digital Rights Management software. Titles include Memoirs of a Geisha, Saw II and Fun with Dick and Jane.

CinemaNow says it will be expanding the titles available for download.

Although the announcements by Movielink and CineNow created a stir, representatives at Blockbuster Inc. and online DVD rental service Netflix Inc. said that the sale of digital versions won’t affect their business.

“It’s all about retail, not rentals,” says a Blockbuster spokesman. “It’s just another alternative for consumers to purchase movies.”

The Netflix spokesman says that the vast majority of people want to watch movies on a television set. “The downloading is restricted to watching movies on a PC and very, very, very few people do that,” he says.

Movielink and CinemaNow also have limited titles available for sale, the Netflix spokesman says. “Movielinks total titles are less than 15% of what Neflix ships every day and about 2% of Netflix’s total catalog,” he says.

Netflix has 55,000 titles and ships 1.4 million DVDs representing about 35,000 titles per day, he adds. Netflix has 4.2 million members and expects to have a minimum of 5.9 million members by year end.

“Downloading gets a lot of attention but it’s not a practical application for the vast majority of Americans,” the Netflix spokesman says.


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