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FOR THE WEEK OF APR 24, 2006
Movie downloads are latest entertainment advance
Newspapers are divided into topic sections, but these two developments show how some subjects overlap categories. Reports about movie downloads and free TV webcasts can appear on the front page, a technology page, the business section or with entertainment news. Have students find or recall other news that isn’t just about sports, celebrities, education or local events. Invite them to act as editors and explain where else those articles could run.
Watching movies and TV fills time that could be spent reading, yet newspapers actively cover those two “competitors” and help readers find entertainment diversions. Ask students to discuss the role of general interest journalism in reporting on varied areas, and challenge them to point out other coverage that steers readers to activities besides reading.
ABC’s executive says “none of us can live in a world of just one business model,” as newspaper publishers also recognize. See how many examples students can give of ways that newspapers are adapting to new technology, new forms of delivering information and new ways of interacting with readers.
We keep gaining more power to be entertained when and how we choose. First came legal music downloads, followed by the sale of TV episodes for $1.99 by Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Now two Web-based movie services are selling digital movies to consumers via broadband Internet connections.
Feature film downloads came on the market this month, offered by Movielink.com and CinemaNow.com – which previously provided limited-time “rentals” online. Now customers can buy movie files that won’t expire on a certain date, though they’re still copy-protected to combat bootlegging. Prices are comparable to DVDs: $18 to $28 for new flicks, and $10 to $20 for older ones. Buyers can copies downloads onto two additional computers, which is handy for travelers with laptops.
There will be no cost to see fresh episodes of the four popular ABC shows during the two-month trial that may become permanent. Ten advertisers have signed up to sponsor the experiment. Viewers will be able to pause and move between "chapters" in an episode, but won't be able to skip embedded ads.
As for movie downloads, new films will be available the same day DVD versions are released. Movielink, owned by major studios, offers 300 films already -- including recent titles such as Walk the Line, King Kong and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It stocks films from MGM, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Brothers. CinemaNow has about 85 titles from the Sony, MGM and Lions Gate libraries.
Behind the move: "There's increasing confidence on the part of the studios that the Internet is a secure delivery platform for content," says Movielink’s chief executive, Jim Ramo. He also credits the success of iTunes, explaining: "In the last year, there has been a significant growth in consumer downloading of video of all types, and this has been driven by Apple's iPod. There's a broader awareness of downloading video, and now there's a real opportunity to fill that demand." At ABC, group president Anne Sweeney says: "It's really an opportunity for us to learn about a different model. It's more importantly recognizing that none of us can live in a world of just one business model."
Drawback: “The downloads cannot be copied onto a DVD that works in a regular disc player. Watching one on a TV requires running a cable from PC to TV, or piping it through a specially equipped home network,” says a Los Angeles Times editorial, which describes downloaded movies as “bolted to a computer hard drive.” Because of that piracy protection, the paper adds, the new services “don't come close to matching the appeal or usefulness of DVDs.”
What’s ahead: If digital delivery backed by big studios catches on, snail-mail DVD distributors such as Blockbuster and Netflix could be in jeopardy. And a next logical step, industry observers say, will be to have theaters download movies from satellite or broadband services instead of receiving deliveries of expensive and fragile 35 mm film stock on bulky reels.
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