It’s about time. Hollywood studios are finally beginning to sell films online(registration required) the same day they are released to DVD. Two sites, Movielink and CinemaNow, will feature hundreds of titles from a variety of studios. Such high-profile films as Brokeback Mountain and King Kong will be among the available titles.
Hollywood played the waiting game, not willing to take a risk until downloadable content was shown to be viable. Most credit Apple’s iTunes as proving the profitability of such a service. Yet the Hollywood studios did not follow iTunes in regards to price. Disney had been selling its made-for-TV movie High School Musical on iTunes for $9.99 (now it is nowhere to be found). But Movielink and CinemaNow plan to offer films for $20 to $30. At those pirces, can downloads be successful? With DVDs often costing much less than $20, especially through chains like Wal-Mart and Best Buy, those downloads are bound to be perceived as less of a value (since they are not tangible objects and have limited portability) than an actual DVD. The movies also take more than an hour to download and can’t be played back on a traditional DVD player, further limiting their appeal.
With video becoming more prominent online, Hollywood needed to act. But with free videos growing in popularity, from viral offerings on YouTube.com and Google Video, to archives of rare material like GameVideos.com and RetroJunk.com, online users may find expensive Hollywood films unattractive. At the right price, though, the studios could sell millions of downloads. It’s clear that the demand is out there. Now, if only the studios could make those final steps and deliver easy and affordable online distribution.