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Searching for VOD

3 Mar, 2005 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Blinkx, a San Francisco-based search portal that uses voice recognition, among other technologies, signed a distribution deal with the the studio-backed Movielink movie download service.

Unlike other online ventures that link consumers to theatrical tickets (AOL's Moviefone), DVD sales, fan sites and download options, Blinkx.tv represents the first direct relationship between a third-party search engine and the studios.

Blinkx — utilizing meta data associated with screen images and complex transcription technology — can retrieve free clips and give users with broadband capability the ability to download titles (based on those clips) from Movielink for 30 days for fees ranging from $1.99 to $4.99 per movie.

The service also offers downloading of most TV and some cable stations, including ABC, CBS, Fox, E! Entertainment, BBC, Sky Network, C-Span and NPR.

“We are always looking to extend our reach to new customers,” said Alan Citron, SVP of marketing with Movielink.

Analysts laud the idea in light of the fact there were more than 23 million high-speed lines (20 million residential) in service in the United States in 2003, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Whether Blinkx, founded by a University of Cambridge IT graduate and a former Yahoo! executive, can maintain its first-out-of-the-gate position remains to be seen.

Search behemoth Google currently tracks photo images and is said to be nearing completion of video capabilities as well.

“I don't know where that leaves Blinkx,” said analyst Phil Leigh of Inside Digital Media. “I don't see why Movielink wouldn't work with [Google].”

A Blinkx spokeswoman admitted its agreement with Movielink is not exclusive.

“I'm not going to search image and video at Google and go to Blinkx to check Movielink,” Leigh said. “That's just not going to happen.”

With its $50.6 billion market capitalization (as of March 2), Google could easily buy Blinkx but Leigh cautions that the studios would first have to fully embrace downloading, associated piracy risks and a likely sabotaged DVD market.

“It is a great idea but the Movielink inventory is too small, and Blinkx is not well known,” he said.

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