Best Buy and Roxio CinemaNow announced a partnership today that will result in a whole new movie downloading service. It'll apparently be integrated into pretty much every Web-enabled device Best Buy sells too, which is a good way of ensuring success.
The way Best Buy sees it, digital distribution is the way of the future—by 2012 the company's predicting it will be a "double digit percentage" of the money generated by home movie-watching. And while that figure covers anywhere from 10% to 99%—which is, shall we say, quite a width—it at least allows Best Buy to be confident in its predictions.
The service has not been named yet, but Best Buy is planning on installing compatible software on the devices it sells. Samsung and Sony have been mentioned as hardware providers. Pursuing a multiple-platform route to making the service work seems like an immediately sensible idea, since it frees Best Buy from having ties to just one provider. But one very big name is missing from the list of providers, and it might be a significant one: Apple. With rumors that Apple's interested in getting TV networks on board for a subscription model for TV shows through iTunes, iTunes' existing movie sales, and the relatively closed-platform status of the iPhone, it's hard to see Apple as anything other than a competitor to Best Buy's plans.
Best Buy does have one big advantage though: All those bricks and mortar stores. With big advertising in front of millions of consumers every week, it'll be able to launch the download service with a massive fanfare, getting it into the public consciousness very effectively. Sonic Solutions is also a sensible partner to work with, since it already runs Blockbuster's movie download system—which is obviously a competitor to Best Buy's plans.
And maybe, with declining DVD sales beginning to become ominous, this is the right time to start the enterprise off—or perhaps even a few years too late. Let's hope that Best Buy has more success in downloadable movies than Wal-Mart and Hewlett-Packard did with their online movie service, now dead for nearly two years.