Warner downloads

Vid unit, CinemaNow try short-term pic share

HOLLYWOOD — Warner Home Video has signed a licensing agreement with Internet video-on-demand service CinemaNow that marks the first time the studio has made its films available for download to users’ PCs.

One of the first titles will be the blockbuster “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Jeffrey Calman, executive VP of VOD and pay-per-view for Warner Bros., called the agreement with CinemaNow a “a short-term, experimental deal.” He would not say how many Warner titles are involved or how long the deal will run.

Warner is one of five studios involved in the landmark Internet VOD joint venture service expected to be launched late next month called Movielink.

That service is announcing its own major partner today in IBM, which will provide systems operations and network management for Movielink downloads. Studios in that joint venture have said all along that they would provide content to Movielink on a non-exclusive basis.

Most already have output deals with one or more VOD providers. The distinction with Warner’s CinemaNow deal is that it is “the first time that Warner Bros. Pictures’ films will be made available for secure, protected download over the public Internet,” the companies said in a statement.

Through CinemaNow, Warner will make new release and catalog titles available during the traditional pay-per-view windows, priced at $3.99 for new releases and $2.99 for library titles for a 24-hour viewing period. After 24 hours, users will no longer be able to access the file from their hard drives.

“We like CinemaNow,” Calman said. “We’ve explored their technology, and if things go well we look forward to having further discussions with them.”

Calman added that the agreement “doesn’t affect our involvement in Movielink at all.”

“Making major studio content available to download in a secure and legal manner marks a tremendous leap forward for online distribution,” CinemaNow executive VP Bruce Eisen said in a statement. “We are excited to add the quality films of Warner Bros. Pictures to our growing list of content providers.”

Although CinemaNow, like other online movies services, such as SightSound Technologies, have been offering independent films on both a streamed and download basis for two years or more, the major studios have been reluctant to license their titles to third-party distributors. Instead, they have focused on developing their own online services, such as Movielink and Movies.com, the planned service from Disney.

MGM also has a VOD deal with CinemaNow.

(Paul Sweeting is a reporter for Variety sister publication Video Business.)

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