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Canadian Firm Eyes Digital Kiosks

4 Mar, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

A Vancouver, B.C.-based technology company is planning a September roll-out of 1,000 kiosks that allow consumers to download movies, TV shows, music, ring tones to MP3 devices, cell phones and USB flash drives.

Internet Media Technologies Inc. announced it would acquire patents for a satellite-connected digital vending machine capable of holding 3,000 to 5,000 separate movies.

Titles will rent from $3.99, with DRM-protected digital files also available for purchase via a proprietary Web site, according to CEO Romeo Prescott.

“DVDs and CDs are going the way of Beta and VHS tapes,” Prescott said.

A self-described rental pioneer who operated a chain of Video Station stores in the early 1980s, Prescott said portable digital files have greater mobility of content, circumvent broadband connectivity issues in the home and allow consumers to avoid late fees.

The executive envisions digital kiosks offering consumers multiple payment options depending on desired usage of the media.

“We are embracing a payment structure on a platform that is important to the industry,” Prescott said.

He said the digital docking stations would significantly exceed available DVD selections at rivals Red Box and The New Release, among others.

Prescott's desire to circumvent packaged media was heightened when he unsuccessfully attempted to rent Michael Clayton at a local Blockbuster.

“They had a five-page waiting list,” he said.

Indeed, Prescott would be the first to admit his digital kiosks don't have the Oscar-nominated drama either. In fact, with the exception of 2 million music tracks and assorted esoteric independent films, Prescott lacks a major studio connection — for now.

“We are building the prototype kiosk and will demonstrate it in Hollywood at our Beverly Hills office,” he said. “We have people lined up but no deals signed yet.”

The executive wouldn't comment if he's in discussions with Blockbuster, whose CEO has publicly stated a desire to pursue kiosk and USB distribution.

“I can't really say,” Prescott said. “We feel this is the right strategy for us.”

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