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Movielink signs Fox to online movie deal

Posted by iMark - 2005-11-21

Online movie download service Movielink on Monday said it has signed a film distribution pact with 20th Century Fox giving the Web site content from all of Hollywood's major film studios.

Movielink, a legal download service, previously offered films from six Hollywood majors, and it now adds more than 1,200 Fox titles such as computer-animated "Robots" to its library.

"Broadband connections continue to improve, and the movement to (direct film delivery) to TV continues to become more of a reality," said Peter Levinsohn, Fox president of worldwide pay television and digital media. "As with any consumer product, we want to make sure we're in every distribution outlet."

Movielink was formed several years ago as a joint venture of five Hollywood studios to provide a legal alternative for consumers who want to download movies to personal computers. The studios are concerned that sites offering illegally copied movies will diminish their revenues.

But the studios also see the Internet as a lucrative, future way to reach customers directly. Film downloading, unlike music, has been slow to develop as few homes had the high-speed Web connections needed to quickly get movies.

Use of legal sites also has been slowed by issues dealing with piracy, rights management and a small market of users who mainly ordered movies to watch on laptop PCs when traveling.

Security measures and rights issues are becoming less troublesome, however, and new in-home devices that easily link the Internet and TVs are increasing in use. That combination of factors leads industry watchers to believe the next few years may see new consumers entering the marketplace.

"All the testing been done, so now it's about growing a business. There's no question things are opening up," said Movielink Chief Executive Officer Jim Ramo.

He said Movielink was nearing a benchmark of selling a 100,000 downloads a month, and while the site's customers are still mostly travelers, he expects that to change.

Levinsohn said Fox would be "more aggressive over the next few months" in making deals to distribute content online and added Fox is exploring deals for downloading TV shows. Fox, which is owned by News Corp., also produces TV programs, owns the Fox broadcast network and several cable outlets.

This new pact comes on the heels of recent announcements in which the ABC, NBC and CBS TV networks agreed to distribute some shows directly to customers either online or via cable and satellite TV networks.

Movielink is a joint venture of studios owned or operated by media conglomerates Viacom Inc., Time Warner Inc., General Electric Co and Sony Corp.

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