Coffee giant to launch Digital Network this fall

After struggling to turn its stores into a major seller of CDs, DVDs and books, and promotional outlet for independent films, Starbucks is giving its entertainment efforts a reboot when it launches its Starbucks Digital Network later this fall.

The venture will offer its customers free movies, music downloads and other content through its in-store Wi-Fi service available at more than 10,000 outlets.

Capitalizing on digital distribution could prove the hit Starbucks has been looking for when it comes to entertainment, since the coffee giant was one of the first retailers to successfully use free Wi-Fi as a way to attract customers in the past.

The company claims that laptop users spend an hour per visit on its Wi-Fi network while cell phone users spend on average around 15 minutes using the service. Now the corporate mandate is to give those customers something more to watch or listen to in order to keep them inside the company’s stores — and as a result, buying more caffeine.Starbucks is still locking down deals with content owners, but its list of providers is growing to program the six planned channels that cover, news, entertainment, wellness, careers, local offerings and corporate updates from Starbucks. Starbucks will split revenue from purchases made on the network with its content partners, providing content owners with a new distribution outlet for their libraries, and giving marketers a new outlet to tubthump their upcoming titles.

This week, the company announced the addition of more than 1,600 documentaries from SnagFilms, which will create a themed collection of films each month. Pact will include three to six music-themed documentaries and musicvideos to complement Starbucks’ push to provide free music in its stores.

Separately, Nick Jr. Boost will produce an advertising-free collection of educational games and other fare that features Nick Jr. characters.

Other content comes from Yahoo, Zagat, Rodale’s Men’s and Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Bicycling, Prevention and Organic Gardening magazines, the New York Times, USA Today and free access to the Wall Street Journal, which normally requires a paid subscription. Apple’s iTunes store will also offer exclusive music and e-book downloads. Yahoo is developing the site for Starbucks.

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