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Movielink Inks Deal With Sonic Solutions

17 Jul, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The big breakthrough is at hand. Movielink today announced it will soon let consumers burn downloaded movies onto recordable discs that can be played on their set-top DVD players. A similar announcement is rumored to be coming Wednesday from CinemaNow, the other leading broadband video-on-demand provider.

Movielink has signed a licensing agreement with Sonic Solutions for the digital media software company's DVD-on-Demand technology. Home users will be able to securely download, format and burn movies to recordable DVD media, using Sonic software applications and the Movielink Manager downloaders use to acquire content.

Sonic also will include the Movielink Service within its Roxio CinePlayer and other Sonic software applications distributed through manufacturer and retail channels.

Both Movielink and CinemaNow began selling major-studio movies over the Internet in April, a development hailed by one top home entertainment executive as a “transformative moment” for the industry. But due to piracy concerns consumers could burn them only to discs playable on computers — typically as Windows Media files — rather than regular DVDs. This was viewed as a major stumbling block to digital distribution's growth into a significant business that could rival, if not surpass, packaged media as the preferred way to sell movies and other programming for home viewing.

It has long been hinted that the DVD-burning issue would ultimately be resolved, but a solution wasn't expected until next year.

Movielink CEO Jim Ramo called the deal with Sonic “a critical advancement” in the development of a truly viable electronic sellthrough, or EST, business model because it allows consumers “to burn and playback movies on standard DVD players.”

“We are anticipating an industry resolution to establish rules for converting secure Internet-delivered Movielink downloads into a secure format compatible with DVD players in the market today,” Ramo said. “This gives consumers a more flexible product while providing copyright holders with adequate protection of their content.”

Jim Taylor, SVP and GM of Sonic's Advanced Technology Group, said the deal with Movielink presents consumers with an ideal hybrid.

“We are combining the flexibility and convenience of Internet video distribution with the permanency and portability of the DVD video format,” he said.

The two companies promise to implement a “parallel marketing collaboration to rapidly establish a larger user base of tens of millions of users by widely distributing through Sonic's PC OEM, retail and e-tail distribution channels,” according to a press release.

Movielink is a joint venture of MGM, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. In addition to distributing movies and other programming from its five studio partners, Movielink also offers content from Walt Disney Pictures, 20th Century Fox and several leading independent suppliers.

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