For Gaurav Dhillon, the CEO of Jaman.com, what sets his online film offering apart from the likes of CinemaNow and iTunes is the sense of community fostered by its interactive elements.
Site users are encouraged to review films and take part in discussions on the forums, while a mood selector will suggest viewing options depending on whether visitors are feeling serious, light-hearted, crave bullets or are in the mood for love.
'People love the idea of interacting with each other, and also of being able to find content when and where they want it,' says Dhillon, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur who founded data integration company Informatica. 'It really sets us apart from sitting at home and watching TV. This is where the advantage lies - you cannot do this on TV or with some other sites.'
Jaman offers visitors more than 3,000 titles and recently expanded its roster through content deals with Lionsgate, Paramount Digital Entertainment, Magnolia Pictures, First Look, the BBC and Arts Alliance. Downloads cost $1.99-$3.99 and range from Beowulf and The Kite Runner to I'll Sleep When I'm Dead. The Lionsgate deal includes 2008 titles such as The Eye and The Bank Job.
Alternatively, some titles are available for free, ad-supported and instantly streamed in high-definition quality. Viewers can watch the films immediately in their web browser with one click and no need to download additional software. Titles include FW Murnau's horror classic Nosferatu, Buster Keaton's Go West or Pieter Kuijpers' Dutch drama Godforsaken, one of many recent foreign titles on offer.
'There was a realisation that moving pictures on the internet are going to be an enormous business - probably bigger than the TV industry,' says Dhillon. 'People will be entertained by an internet-equipped screen. We see in developing countries like India, Brazil and China that people are skipping landlines and moving to mobile telephony, so landline connections are simply not going to exist and similarly people will get internet- connected devices.'
Broadly speaking, Jaman will license a title during its VoD window that allows users to view the film before it comes out on DVD. Once a film is released on DVD, it may enter Jaman's library.
'I previewed the service to about 200 people at Cannes two years ago and now we're at a point where we have 10 million page views a month and a worldwide audience,' Dhillon says. 'The next level is obviously more content and more users. We want to take moving pictures to the next level. We want to make it available to you everywhere, so it will show up on Tivo in the US. We would like to build a partnership with other companies offering set-top boxes all over the world and on handheld devices.
'We want to be the world's best-known destination for films,' Dhillon proclaims.