July 31, 2007, 12:00 AM

Now showing: web-downloaded movies on the TV screen

Amazon.com and TiVo subscribers with broadband Internet access can purchase or rent movies and TV programs through Amazon’s Unbox download service and immediately view them on their TV screen. CinemaNow is making it easier to view downloaded movies through an Xbox 360 game console, and Netflix reports more than 5 million viewings of its movie download service while planning a web-to-TV service next year.

One of the biggest obstacles to widespread use of web-­downloaded movies has been the difficulty in transferring movie content to TVs so consumers can watch on large screens in the comfort of their living rooms. But now that’s starting to change.

In a new offering from Amazon.com Inc. and TiVo, the digital TV content recording service, subscribers with broadband Internet access can purchase or rent movies and TV programs through Amazon’s Unbox download service and immediately view them on their TV screen. The system requires the use of a TiVo recording box as well as subscription to TiVo’s monthly service plan. Amazon Unbox also charges fees for each download.

“We are excited to make Amazon Unbox on TiVo even easier to use by making it possible to purchase and rent movies and TV shows not only on the web but also with your remote control,” says Roy Price, director, Amazon Unbox.

Amazon Unbox also integrates with TiVo’s new search function, Universal Swivel Search, which allows viewers to seamlessly link from descriptions of one program to all others that have common elements, including program name, actors or suggestions based on other viewers’ feedback.

TiVo service starts at $99.99, after mail-in rebate and service commitment at Amazon.com. Amazon Unbox movie rentals range in price from $1.99 to $3.99 and can be purchased for $9.99 to $14.99. Thousands of television shows also are available for $1.99 per episode.

CinemaNow Inc., which offers movie downloads at CinemaNow.com, upgraded its Media Manager service last month so that it automatically detects a home-networked Xbox 360 online game console. The Xbox 360 serves as a connecting device to provide for immediate viewing of downloaded content on a TV screen. “This upgrade alone makes our entire library of more than 7,000 videos available to millions of Xbox users who are downloading movies online and watching them on their TVs,” says CEO Curt Marvis.

Not to be outdone by movie downloads, online DVD rental service Netflix Inc. earlier this year began letting subscribers download within 30 seconds any of 2,000 movie titles. It claims more than 5 million viewings so far. Although subscribers can use their own connections to transfer those movies to their TV screens, Netflix expects to offer a direct web-to-TV download service next year, a spokesman says.

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

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