The rise and rise of legal video downloads continues apace. Latest news is that downloadable dubbed versions of Warner Bros' movies and TV programmes go on sale in Germany in March - distributed by peer-to-peer file-sharing.
This follows on from last week's introduction of a sports-clips and (complete) movies download service - Sky by broadband - that's free to Sky's premium subscribers, comes news that downloadable dubbed versions of Warner Bros' movies and TV programmes are expected to go on sale in Germany in March at similar prices to DVDs, with distribution carried out by peer-to-peer file-sharing.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Warner Bros is working with Bertelsmann AG and its subsidiary Arvato to create a German sales service called In2Movies. This will offer for sale dubbed versions of movies such as Batman Begins and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, along with dubbed Warner TV shows, such as The OC, and German-made programmes.
Although TWSJ makes a big play of Warner using previously-reviled P2P file-sharing technology (forgetting to mention that so do BSkyB and AOL), the bottom line is that Warner movies and TV programmes are already available for legal download elsewhere.
AOL with its In2TV rental service is one supplier and Warner is the mainstay of the movie offerings from UK-based LOVEFiLM.com - a company that, along with BSkyB, Intel says it's working closely with, "to bring on-demand entertainment to the home".
The recently-launched download service from LOVEFiLM appears to use servers, rather than P2P, and is providing movies for rental, rather than purchase. LOVEFiLM's collection of downloadables is quite small but does take in 20+ Warner titles, among them Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, Blazing Saddles, Beetlejuice, Alexander and a quartet of Batman movies.
LOVEFiLM's download scheme is only open to users of its existing web-based, postal DVD-rental service. They already pay monthly membership fees of between £10 and £20, depending on whether they want to have one, two, three or four discs available at the same time.
Costs for downloads are on top of the monthly fee and vary according to the movie and the quality of download selected.
Typical costs are £3.49 or £2.99. The £1 premium gets you a "super high quality" version; cheapskates or those looking for a faster download can instead choose the faster and cheaper "high quality" option. Some movies can be viewed for five days, others for seven.
"Super high quality" movies appears to be of 640x480 resolution and use the WMV3 video Codec. Data-rate is 3307Kbps for the video side and 99Kbps for the 48kHz/two-channel sound. We haven't yet been able to determine the spec for "high quality" but it looks like the total data-rate is roughly half that of the super variant. You must be connected to LOVEFiLM via the internet when you begin to watch the movie, to allow the licence to be verified, but if the connection is broken, accidentally or deliberately, the movie won't stop playing.
It really is starting to look as if 2006 will be the year when legal video downloads move into the big-time - and the sooner the better, says we.