Six of Hollywoodis largest movie studios have banded together to offer digital downloads of full-length, feature movies through MovieLink.com, though iPod (and Mac) users need not bother to look. The studios announced the availability of some 75 downloadable movies through MovieLink Monday, movies that can be kept on users Windows PCs indefinitely.
Similar to the way record labels have sought to lock down downloadable songs, MovieLink purchases will have strict DRM controls. Users can watch a movie on one PC, and burn it to a DVD, which can then be copied on up to two other PCs, but not watched on a DVD player.
In addition, pricing for movies is set between US$19.99 and $30, and a spot check shows that pricing to be the same or higher than movies purchased on DVD.
For instance, Get Rich or Die Tryini is priced at $26.99 at both MovieLink for a download and Amazon for a physcial DVD, but the download doesnit include any of the extra features one can find on a DVD. Indeed, the download isnit of the same quality as the DVD, either. Other movies checked had the same pricing situation.
According to a News.com report, the studios are trying to enter the digital download market without upsetting their brick and mortar retailers, who are their biggest customers.
"They are giving the consumer less and charging more for it," Warren N. Lieberfarb, the former president of Warner Home Video and now an entertainment technology consultant, told News.com. "To me this really stacks the deck against mass consumer adoption."
"The studios are caught between a rock and a hard place," Mr. Lieberfarb added. "If they donit make movies available electronically, piracy will get them. But they simultaneously have to take care of their brick-and-mortar customers."
If MovieLinkis pricing and Mr. Lieberfarbis comments are any indication, it has not occurred to anyone involved that DVDs can, and should be, treated as value-added products (higher quality, bonus content, greater flexibility) that can command a higher price than what should be a cheaper download.
Instead, they are expecting consumers to be willing to pay the same price they would if they got a physical DVD. It should also be noted that in addition to potentially mollifying B&M outlets, the labels stand to make a higher profit per download than they would with a physical DVD due to the lack of manufcaturing and inventory expenses.
The service relies on Windows Media, which means that Mac and Linux users need not apply. iPod users are also out of luck, as are any other portable devices. News.com reported that the ability to download movies to unspecified portable devices is expected to eventually come.
Mac users attempting to pull up the MovieLink Web page just to browse it receive this message:
"Sorry, but as of May 2, 2005, Movielink no longer supports Windows 98 and ME operating systems. Movielink also does not support Mac or Linux."