Tiscali announces movie link-up with CinemaNow

Tiscali broadband subscribers in Germany, Italy and the UK will be able download a range of Hollywood films, after the Italian-owned internet service provider revealed details of a deal with California-based CinemaNow.

The Tiscali deal will not affect existing deals with other UK ISPs, including Wanadoo and BT Yahoo!.

Tiscali UK portal director Richard Ayers says: “Tiscali will be launching the CinemaNow offering in the UK at the beginning of October. We will be starting with an initial list of films and will add to the catalogue every week. This will help to establish the legal delivery of movies online and prove viability of the internet in the same way as we have seen the music download market boom over the past few years.”

CinemaNow, which claims to be the world leader in video-on-demand services, was formed in 1999 and is majority owned by Hollywood studio Lions Gate Entertainment, with both Microsoft and video retailer Blockbuster as minority shareholders. The company’s website, cinemanow.com, offers a library of 4,200 films, concerts and television programmes and is accessed by more than 1 million users a month.

Consumers can “rent” a film for a limited period (after which time the file corrupts), take out a monthly or annual subscription allowing unlimited viewings or pay extra to burn a permanent copy (download-to-own).

UK viewers, however, will not be able to access all the material on the CinemaNow site, due to international copyright restrictions. At present, UK users are only able to download about 500 items, but CinemaNow is understood to be negotiating with the major Hollywood studios to find a way of solving this problem.

CinemaNow has more than 150 licenses for material with companies including Disney, MGM. Miramax, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros. In the US, it recently signed a deal with Microsoft-owned portal company MSN for a video-on-demand service through the MSN Movies channel.

Rival US online DVD movie rental service Netflix and leading US personal video recorder company TiVo have admitted that they have been discussing a deal which would allow consumers to download Netflix DVDs to their TiVo recorders. However, the companies have stressed that any such deal is not imminent.

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