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Movielink Rolls Out Upgrades

3 Sep, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

Movielink, the studio-backed Internet video-on-demand (VOD) service, is rolling out new features today to make the service more appealing to new and existing customers.

Until now, users had to download a movie in its entirety before launching the file to play it, and the user had to be connected to the Internet for the first viewing within the 24-hour play window.With the new “Movies in Minutes” feature, users will be able to start watching the film in as little as two minutes after starting the downloald. Also part of the Movielink 2.0 upgrade is a feature that frees users from the need to be online during the first viewing.

In November, Movielink 2.0 will offer a fee-added option that lets consumers re-rent select movies multiple times within a 30-day period without a new download, Movielink CEO Jim Ramo said.

“Re-rent is going to be available probably in November,” Ramo said. “Studios will set price of re-rent as well as the original price.” Movielink downloads cost between $2.99 and $4.99 per movie, with prices set by the studios.

Not all the details of the re-rental feature have been finalized, but Ramo said “there is every indication that it will be available on all titles.”

Among the new features available today is a standardized user interface, so users will get the same screen to interact with Movielink regardless of which player software they use.

“It's a Movielink skin around both Windows Media Player and the Realplayer, that in effect has the same look and feel regardless of which player they use,” Ramo said.

Also, Movielink 2.0 will make it possible for consumers to stop a film, shut down their PC and launch the movie from the same point they stopped, much like most DVD players.

With the new features, Movielink will begin cautious marketing efforts designed to get the most bang for the buck. Since the service works only with a broadband connection, advertising is primarily to broadband customers. Those efforts have been extended recently with Movielink's deals with Qwest and BellSouth, which promote the service to their broadband customers.

The Movielink 2.0 launch will be supported by a national advertising campaign with buys across both print and online, targeting consumers of PC entertainment, college and travel markets.

Many of the changes target Movielink's core audience, which Ramo said is primarily business travelers so far. But the service will begin promoting more to college students this fall with ads in college newspapers.

“We're not holding back. We think we are optimizing our marketing for the size of the footprint and the size of the market today,” Ramo said. “Eighty percent of TV viewers don't have broadband, which is required for Movielink.”

Finally, this month marks the debut of Disney product via Movielink, making 20th Century Fox the only major studio not offering titles over Movielink.

With the addition of the Disney titles -- including films from Buena Vista, Touchstone and Miramax -- Movielink's online library will grow to 450 titles by October. Disney movies to hit the service this month include The Recruit, 25th Hour, The Hot Chick, Frida, Gangs of New York, Shanghai Knights, and The Quiet American..

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