It is widely reported today that six major movie studios have signed up with MovieLink to provide movies for sale by download, starting on the same day that the DVD version is released. Warner, Universal, Sony, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and MGM will offer older titles as well as first-run movies. Sony, MGM, and Lion’s Gate will also sell movies through CinemaNow.
The two services have different requirements and restrictions, and you won’t be able to burn your downloads to a DVD that will play on a regular DVD player, but you will be able to watch them on a PC or notebook. CinemaNow also has a large collection of free movies that you can download, though most of them are what you would expect to find filling out the bill at a drive-in theater. (Does anyone remember drive-in theaters? The last one around here closed about a dozen years ago.)
This is one more step in the digital distribution of all content over the Internet. The lack of physical inventory results in huge savings for the content producers, and consumers get immediate delivery without leaving their house. And online delivery of HDTV versions eliminates the conflict between Blu-ray and HD DVD; we won’t need either of them! I also expect that as the demand for such services grows, we’ll find more and more content publishers who are willing to relax the usage restrictions, which in turn will put more pressure on the big movie studios. Before long, I expect that the marketplace will erode many of the more objectionable aspects of DRM (which stands for “copy protection”).