Internet Film Sites Up And Running: Now What?

If ever there was a product designed by a committee it’s the major Hollywood studios on-line movie download effort launched Monday. Users can download films to their PC and then watch it ‘ on their PC. They can burn a DVD of the download and watch that ‘ on their PC. In other words, the target audience may be lonely bachelors or teenagers without TVs or access to Netflix.

And the price? Downloads of Brokeback Mountain, King Kong and Pride and Prejudice, for example, may cost twice what the DVD versions will. Make that an audience of lonely rich bachelors. The limits on Movielink and CinemaNow are such that they seem to break all the basic rules of introducing a successful new consumer product: great price (no), quality (a wash) and convenience (not).

However, says Universal Pictures’ president and chief operating officer Rick Finkelstein (in an interview with the Los Angeles Times): “We think this is a great consumer offering that complements the DVD release. If somebody wants to get their content online and create a digital library, this gives them the opportunity to do that. This is another way for consumers to access movies.”

An industry analyst supports Finkelstein’s exuberance as rational: ‘Watching movies on a PC ‘ it’s a real market,” says David Card, senior analyst at Jupiter Research in New York. “There are college students, there are business travelers and kids in the back seat of the SUV. But the missing link to this kind of an offering is getting it on the TV screen.”

And how. Last year, U.S. consumers spent $24.3 billion buying and renting home videos. Analysts say it’s only a mater of time until downloadable movies will be easily viewable on TV.