Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Selling & Renting Digital Films Online

I live in Texas, which is in the middle of an unusual heat wave. Today the D/FW area was officially 101 degrees although my local bank's outdoor thermometer thought it was much hotter.

This has resulted in our state power grid making the decision to do rolling blackouts throughout the state, bringing down one part of the grid every 15 minutes. I want to understand this better and will probably blog on it in the next day or so.

In the meantime, I've been wanting to post this item for two weeks. Something else just kept coming up to delay it.

On Monday, April 3, seven Hollywood studios announced that they were beginning to sell digital versions of their top films on the Internet. According to the Associated Press, this is "the first time major movies have been available online to own . . . The films can't be burned onto a disc for viewing on a DVD player. Still, the move is seen as a step toward full digital distribution of movies over the Internet."

The studios in question are: Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Lionsgate and MGM. They will make available both first-run titles like "Brokeback Mountain" and "King Kong" along with older titles. Most of the studios will use Movielink (www.movielink.com) for distribution. However, Sony and Lionsgate will use CinemaNow (www.cinemanow.com) for their distribution.

I clicked on Movielink tonight just to see how it works. You can choose to rent or purchase the movies. If you rent (fees start at $.99), you have 30 days to watch the film. You can play the film for up to 24 hours during that 30-day period, meaning--if I understand it--that you can watch a two-hour film a full twelve times during that 30-day period. If you choose to buy the film, there are no limits on how often or when you play the movie. Purchase fees start at $8.99 for older movies and $26.99 for new films like "Brokeback Mountain." When I checked CinemaNow, the deal was similar. I could rent "Walk the Line" for $3.99 for a 24-hour period.

Right now the plan is to make some movies available online the same day they become available on DVD. However, the studios will pick and choose the films involved. They do not want to hurt their lucrative DVD business.

However, this is a first step toward a digital universe. You can set your entertainment center up to run the movie from your computer to your big screen TV. You can even cut a disc as backup. But that disc will not run on a DVD player at this time.

I know I keep harping on the importance of providing material in as many mediums as possible. This is a very important first step for Hollywood.

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