Warner Bros. has signed up to supply films to internet movie service CinemaNow. This is CinemaNow's first deal with a major studio and Warner's entry into web-based video-on-demand (VoD).
Warner Bros. says that it will provide some new hits such as Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone and older, library titles like Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder for CinemaNow's normal, 24-hour access time until the end of this year. Prices will range from $3.99 for downloading a blockbuster like Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone to $2.99 for other titles.
CinemaNow, which is majority owned by Lions Gate Entertainment with minority partners including Microsoft and video chain Blockbuster (like Paramount Pictures, part of the Viacom group), has until now carried independent films.
The link with CinemaNow suggests that some studios are looking for multiple, non-exclusive relationships with VoD operators. Both Warner and Paramount are also part of Movielink, a studio-controlled internet pay-per-view service that is due to launch in the fourth quarter of the year. The other studios involved in Movielink are MGM, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Universal Pictures.
To date the market for online films has been held back by problems, including copyright protection and speed of access. Even on a high-speed broadband connection it can take two hours to download a full-length feature film. Studios have been wary about allowing their films to circulate in digital format for fear that they lose control of them to "peer-to-peer" swapping services such as Napster, that the music industry blames for its falling sales.
CinemaNow currently boasts nearly two million video streams to roughly one million users a month. It uses its own software called PatchBay to manage digital distribution issues like copy protection, user profiles and pay-per-view services.
Separately, computing giant International Business Machines (IBM) was this week selected to supply the technology to run Movielink.