January 24, 2005 10:40 AM PST

Napster eyes movie downloads

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Digital-music service Napster is considering remaking itself to offer movie downloads too.

Speaking at the Midem music conference in Cannes this week, Napster CEO Chris Gorog said the company is considering offering movies alongside its current catalog of some 1 million music tracks.

"We are currently considering moving into video, particularly to tap the younger video game generation," the Financial Times quoted him as saying. "I do think that while there are huge players in the delivery of movies like Sky, there could be a role for Napster."

Online movie distribution has already taken off to a small degree in the United States, with Movielink and CinemaNow selling films via the Web from $2.99 upwards.

Movielink is backed by major cinemas, including MGM Studios, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios and Warner Bros., while CinemaNow has big-name partners including Disney and Microsoft.

However, use of legal movie download sites has paled in comparison to illegal film distribution--and the movie industry has ratcheted up its antipiracy efforts accordingly. The Motion Picture Association of America has filed lawsuits against pirates and is cracking down on distribution networks such as eDonkey and BitTorrent.

Nevertheless, analysts are predicting legal film downloads could be a winner. Since the advent of broadband, film downloads have surged considerably; one in four people online have now downloaded a film, according to the MPAA. Such statistics have encouraged Napster and others to eye the market.

In other news, Napster has announced it will be opening a German song shop within the year.

Jo Best of Silicon.com reported from London.


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