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Warner Bros. to sell movies via BitTorrent

Posted on Tuesday, May 9th, 2006 and updated on Tuesday, May 9th, 2006 1:46 PM

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Warner Bros. has announced that it will sell movies and TV shows over the Internet using the BitTorrent file-sharing technology.
The companies did not specify a date but said the service will be offered starting this summer. Pricing is also undetermined, although individual TV shows could be priced as low as $1 and movies will be sold for about the price of buying a DVD, BitTorrent said. Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner, said it will use BitTorrent's ability to speed the downloading of large computer files to offer rentals and purchase of its films on the same day the movies become available on DVD.
As with many announcements like this, the details are going to make or break the venture. Details like pricing, picture and sound quality, extras, and rights issues will be critical to whether this will make an impact in the market or if it's just another half-hearted attempt at offering movies online that provides less value than actually buying the DVD outright. Pricing: Make it cheaper to buy this way than to buy the DVD on the opening week when every retailer is providing value-pricing to attract customers. This is especially important since the BitTorrent technology's advantage lies in the fact that each downloader has to kick in some of their own bandwidth by allowing others to download portions of the content. Make it $10-$12, and they'll get some attention. Picture and Sound Quality: DVD-quality picture and sound is a bare minimum. If I'm going to be watching this on a computer screen or on a projector via a Media Center PC, 480i isn't going to cut it. 720p should be the target, and they can charge more than the DVD if they do so. If they don't bring multi-channel sound, none of the rest matters. Extras: Provide extras to differentiate from PPV and VOD and to keep on par with DVD. The only way people will give these up from a value perspective is if they get something better in return, such as better video and sound. It would be nice to introduce some web interactivity that comes from the inherent connectivity that purchasers will have. Rights Issues: This is a deal-killer that can negate every other checkmark on the plus side. If the studio locks these movies down too tightly where people regret having bought the first movie, they'll never buy again. This wouldn't be the first venture to be thrown under the DRM bus, so we'll have to see what happens when/if this announcement becomes a reality.

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