In a breakthrough first for the entertainment industry, CinemaNow on Tuesday (July 18) made it possible for consumers to legally burn downloaded movies—complete with other elements of commercially produced product such as menus and bonus content—that can be played on standard DVD players.
The service went live with the rights to about 100 titles from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Lionsgate, MGM Worldwide Digital Media, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, EagleVision and Sundance Channel, including “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” “Scent of a Woman” and “Barbershop.”
CinemaNow CEO Curt Marvis said these well-known, popular movies would introduce the burning capability to the widest possible audience. Additional and current releases will follow once the service becomes more widespread, he added.
Prices for DVDs start at $8.99 and include a printable DVD label and cover art. The CinemaNow Burn to DVD service is based on fluxDVD, a technology from ACE GmbH for secure online DVD distribution.
“This is a historic day for CinemaNow, and we are at the forefront of digital video distribution,” Marvis said. “But this doesn’t mean that we’re abandoning the VOD model. It was really driven by a mantra within the company — listen to what customers want and how can we get that to them — and customers said they want to be able to burn these movies and play them on their regular DVD player.”
Movies are protected at two points in the process, Marvis said, to meet the studios’ stringent security requirements. One is the encryption of the downloaded file, to keep it safe during transmission, and the other is on the burned disc to hinder making copies.
Movielink announced a deal last week with Sonic to enable secure burning but does not yet have the licenses in place to go live with its service.
Rick Finkelstein, vice chairman of Universal Pictures and executive vp Universal Studios, said that all of their market studies indicate the consumer desire for this capability.
“We think that offering the ability to burn a DVD is the next big step in the electronic sell-through market,” Finkelstein said. “We think this is really compelling, and that’s why we’re participating.”
Physical product retailers might not be pleased, but Finkelstein hopes that they evolve to embrace the download space with their own expertise. “It’s an issue that we’re aware of, and we’re in discussions with them, but you can’t really fight technology,” he said. “This is the beginning.”
SPHE president Benjamin Feingold said full studio support for both Movielink and CinemaNow’s DVD-burning option hinges on getting an “amendment to the DVD charter so the CSS technology can be included in the download architecture.”
He acknowledged that this security technology already has been hacked but said “for most consumers, it would be an impediment.”
Feingold said Sony is participating in CinemaNow’s Burn to DVD service because the studio considers it a test both of consumer demand and of CinemaNow’s anti-ripping technology. But Sony won’t pledge its full support until the incorporation of CSS.
“That’s why we’re starting the download-to-burn with deeper catalog,” he said. “As you get closer to new release product and higher price points, from a copy-protection point of view the potential for piracy gets stronger. Having said that, we think both announcements are positive in a sense that we know consumers would like to burn the product they purchase, and over time we, Hollywood, would like to meet the consumer market’s demands.”