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Review: Legal video-download wagon starts to roll ever faster with AOL on board

by Bob Crabtree on 16 November 2005, 04:47

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All aboard the download wagon!

Legal video-download wagon starts to roll ever faster with AOL on board

AOL trials high-quality video downloads in lead up to free online vintage-TV service

It's starting to look as though 2005 will go down as the year when the legal video-download wagon really started rolling. The latest company to give it a hefty push is AOL. In co-operation with its Time-Warner sister company Warner Bros Domestic Cable Distribution, the web giant plans to start a free online TV service - In2TV - in January.

In2TV will carry a wide range of Warner's vintage TV programmes - such as Maverick, Babylon 5, F Troop and The FBI – and a plenty more besides. And, the service - supported by ads commercials - will be available free to all web users, not just those who have AOL as their ISP. Better still, it will offer broadband users videos of a quality said to be comparable to DVD.

Open trials of the high-quality service – HI-Q Video – are already underway with 100 or more downloads available of music videos and trailers for movies and video games. AOL says that images are intended to be of good enough quality to be viewed full-screen on PC monitors or on TV sets able to show PC interfaces. Much to our surprise, AOL seems not to be exaggerating – the quality of the clips we downloaded is remarkably good.

AOL Kelly Clarkson music video
The quality of AOL's downloads is very good.
To see just how good, click on one of the grabs.
Above it's from a Kelly Clarkson music video,
below a clip from the new King Kong movie

AOL King Kong clip
AOL is putting out the HI-Q material using what it describes as "a centrally managed, highly-scalable delivery model that enables the company to send content reliably". Trouble is, it also says it's using "the industry’s first commercial-grade, peer-to-peer grid distribution networks", along with unspecified digital rights management (DRM) technology to protect copyrighted material.

With peer-to-peer's rather chequered history – and the recent debacle over Sony BMG's rootkit copy-protection system
we'll continue to harbour doubts until wiser heads than ours have checked out all security aspects.