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A View from Brad King

Movie Studios Allow Download-to-DVD Burning

A movie download service previously tied only to computers will allow consumers to make their own DVDs.

  • July 19, 2006

For years, the major entertainment studios have tried in vain to slow the spread of peer-to-peer technologies that enable people to swap music, movie, and television files (among many other media).

The music industry has been particularly draconian in its pursuit of controlling emerging technologies, threatening a variety of lawsuits against technology companies and consumers alike; and the music industry’s semi-successful front against technology inspired the movie industry to follow suit.

For some time, it appeared that the only emerging business and distribution models for entertainment would be controlled by the major studios (Universal, Sony, Bertlesmann, Time Warner, EMI). However, the studios found that creating and running a web distribution business takes a lot more time and manpower than they could reasonably handle, so they changed course mid-stream and began looking instead to partner with technology companies, such as CinemaNow – the group behind today’s announcement that film studios will begin allowing download-to-DVD burning for some movies, according to this New York Times article.

The service, while hardly one to get technologically excited about (after all, if you’ve used any peer network to download movies, this isn’t new), marks a step forward in the business evolution of these types of services, which eventually will need to become a hybrid of free file-sharing services and pay-download services, in order to ensure the highest-quality files.

The new CinemaNow disks, for now, will lack a high level of quality. From the Times article:

The picture quality of the discs made through the downloading will not be as high as those on commercial DVD’s because the files need to be compressed to reduce the downloading time. Even so, it will take about three hours to download and burn a movie, hardly allowing for impulse purchases.

Still, the success of Sony’s PSP handheld gaming device – which also doubles as a portable movie and television player – created a new outlet for media outlets, and was a wholly unexpected market. If the download-to-DVD hurdles can be overcome (both the technological and licensing), there will likely be a similar explosion of businesses that grow around the phenomenon. And, eventually, the movie studios and technology companies will figure out a way to deliver high-quality media across the Internet using peer network sites.

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