New movie services arrive on Internet

Six major Hollywood studios started selling digital versions of movies on the Internet last week — the first time they have allowed U.S. consumers to buy films online and store them indefinitely with no viewing expiration date.

Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and MGM are offering films for sale on a co-owned Website called Prices range from $10 and $30 per film, with the average being about $20.

In a separate announcement, Sony and Lionsgate said they would sell films through the CinemaNow site. Films from the Walt Disney Co. were not available. Both groups said they are negotiating with Disney for rights.

Both CinemaNow, which began by offering nearly 300 films this week, and Movielink, which offered about 75, will offer films the same day they are released for sale on DVD.

Many have noted that the studio's sales through iTunes have been much greater than he expected. Moreover, Universal's research showed that the majority of those downloads were watched on computer screens, not video iPods, indicating that people are willing to watch video on their PCs.

The New York Times said Apple, and other online retailers are also busily trying to cut deals with Hollywood to sell downloads. In general, the studios want to make downloads available on largely the same terms, in as many places as possible.

For now, these movie downloads are a bit cumbersome and the studios have limited the way they can be watched. A movie will need about one gigabyte of hard-drive space and will take an hour or two to download using a high-speed Internet connection.

CinemaNow will allow the movies to be played only on a single computer. It prevents users from burning a DVD. Movielink will allow the movie to be copied onto a DVD, from which the movie can be downloaded to two other computers, but it cannot be played on a conventional DVD player.

The movies also cannot be copied to Apple's video iPod or the handheld video players that use software from Microsoft. The studios are expected to permit downloads to portable devices later this year.

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