August 24, 2006 11:55 AM PDT

AOL to sell digital movie downloads

AOL is adding digital movie downloads from several studios to its video site and providing more on-demand TV shows.

The company said on Thursday that it has cut deals with several movie studios--Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros. Entertainment--to make full-length movie downloads and related content available on its AOL Video site.

Any visitor to the video portal, not just AOL members, can get a movie download, with titles ranging in price from $9.99 to $19.99. Other film-related content, like trailers and outtakes, can often be streamed for free, AOL said.

The move is part of the Time Warner subsidiary's effort to transform itself from an Internet service provider into a Web-based media company. For the Hollywood studios, faced with digital piracy of their products, it is an acknowledgment of the need for online distribution.

"Viewing online digital content is no longer an esoteric pastime," Benjamin Feingold, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, digital distribution and acquisitions, said in a statement. "Online programming services like AOL's video portal have the potential to become a major distribution stream for consumer entertainment and a viable revenue source for Hollywood."

While on-demand movie services like CinemaNow and Movielink have been around for a while, the buzz over online film downloads has surged recently, with rumors of Amazon.com and Apple Computer's iTunes store launching services of their own.

In addition to movies, AOL has augmented its on-demand television content with downloadable programming from Fox and Sony, including full episodes of "24," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and "Charlie's Angels."

Several TV networks have also made preview shows from their soon-to-debut fall lineup available on AOL Video, a trend that has taken off this summer at other online media hubs like iTunes and Netflix.

Right now, AOL Video offers a limited lineup of downloadable TV shows rather than a wide range of programming. It groups its on-demand programs into "channels"--primarily offshoots of cable and satellite networks such as MTV2 and FX--and offers a shifting selection, typically for $1.99 apiece. There are also AOL News video clips and the still-in-beta online extreme-sports network Lat34.com

The current movie downloads are restricted to a dozen Sony Pictures releases, such as "Spider-Man 2" and "Black Hawk Down." Additionally, the site offers free access to movie trailers, music videos and user-generated clips in the manner of YouTube or Google Video.

AOL Video content can be burned to DVD and is compatible with many devices, the company said.

See more CNET content tagged:
Sony Pictures, America Online Inc., on-demand, online media, Time Warner Inc.

4 comments

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late to the game
AOL seems to be trying to play catch up in soo many arenas since the news of its privacy faux pas <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.essentialsecurity.com/Documents/article22.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.essentialsecurity.com/Documents/article22.htm</a> and dwindling subscriber base

Sorry, YouTube, ABC and others have beat you to the webcast table.
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's not always too late...
First-mover advantage is highly overrated especially in the Internet and high-tech world. Recent history is just filled with examples. Xerox-PARC had the first revolutionary UI and Apple eventually ended up co-opting it. Apple had a revolutionary OS / hardware combo which was beaten down by the Intel / Microsoft duopoly. And let's not forget that in 1999, Internet search was dominated by Yahoo. Now look who owns the market?

AOL may be late, but that does not mean they are not a threat.
Posted by ichiu (3 comments )
Link Flag
And here I thougth they were going to sell ...
... movie download _data_.

You know, user 119292, with the kinky sex pr0n
fetish and macrame tutorials.

As if any thinking AOL user (ok, well, both of
them) would trust the company at this point.
Posted by Hardrada (359 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why the high price ???
This is something I don't understand.
If I can buy a dvd disc containing an interactive menu, the movie in 2 screen formats, with 5.1 audio often also translated into numerous languages, DTS, comments audio, multi-language captions, behind the scenes video clips, and much more, for about $5.99 depending on the age of the movie.

Why is it that all these "movie downloading services" want to charge me $9.99 for just the movie, and often times in a small screen format that would not compare to DVD quality, and 2 audio channels. None of the additional content or features mentioned above will be included. How is it that I'm getting a great deal?

I can't help but to feel cheated. I know I won't be buying. Good luck in their endeavors. All I know is that we want portability/convenience along with a great price. Look at Sony's UMD format. Dead on Arrival. It looks great on the PSP. But, the same movies you find on UMD for $20, you can turn around and get it on DVD for $5.
Posted by Dead Soulman (245 comments )
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