Movielink, CinemaNow unveil 'download-to-own' stores
In a move that cuts into the competitive edge of cable-delivered video-on-demand, Movielink and CinemaNow have introduced "download-to-own" (DTO) services that enable customers to purchase movies in the earlier DVD release window.
Movielink, the studio-backed Internet movie service, will kick off its day-and-date DVD release strategy tomorrow (April 4) with Universal Studios' critically-acclaimed film, Brokeback Mountain. The second, offered next Tuesday (April 11), will be Sony Pictures' Fun with Dick and Jane. Other studios involved in the deal include MGM, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, and Warner Bros.
Titles already available for DTO include King Kong; Good Night, and Good Luck; Walk the Line; Memoirs of a Geisha; Hustle and Flow; and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Older titles available for purchase include The Sting; To Kill a Mockingbird; and Office Space.
In addition to downloading and renting titles for a 24-hour period, the DTO service from Movielink will allow customers to keep titles permanently. The digital rights management (DRM) system will allow customers to watch purchased films on up to three PCs, to burn them to a DVD (in Windows Media format) for "backup," and stream downloaded titles around the home via home networking. Titles burned to disk will not play on a standard DVD player, however. Those disks will play back on the computer to which the title was originally downloaded.
Movielink and its partners are seeking ways to burn titles to disks that can be played on traditional DVD players. In a call with reporters Monday, Movielink CEO Jim Ramo said the process involved transcoding content to DVD-compatible formats and enhancing the security systems.
"There's a lot of work to be done," Ramo said of those plans, and was not ready to provide a specific timeframe.
To support the new effort, Movielink has divided its site into two "stores" - one for rentals, the other for purchases.
The DTO version of King Kong, for example, sells for $26.99 normally, but Movielink on Monday was offering it on special for $19.99. The movie's file size is listed at 1.8 gigabytes.
CinemaNow, meanwhile, is promoting a DTO service of its own that reportedly will allow customers to play the title on one PC.
"We're committed to developing the Movielink service so our customers get the highest viewing value, more technological options, greater convenience, deeper selection of content, and availability of titles in earlier windows," said Movielink CEO Jim Ramo, in a release.
"Consumers are quickly embracing digital downloads as an effective method of purchasing content online, and we want to be able to meet that need in the marketplace," said Tom Lesinski, president of Paramount's digital entertainment group.
Cable, meanwhile, has yet to obtain the earlier DVD window with the larger studios. The industry has, however, made some strides in the independent film arena. In February, Comcast Corp. and Cablevision Systems Corp. inked a deal to offer films from IFC Entertainment via VOD at the same time they premiere in theaters.