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December 23, 2006

Xbox 360 video download buzz

Ben Fritz at Variety reports that the Xbox 360 video download service announced in November may be a surprise hit:

In a topsy-turvy year for the digital download biz, a videogame service in just a few million homes is ending 2006 with more momentum than the world’s biggest e-tailer.

The relative success of video downloads on Microsoft’s Xbox Live and disappointment of’s Unbox point to two factors that differentiate Xbox from Amazon and its many other competitors — consumers who download a movie want a simple way to watch it on their TV, and those with high-def TVs want high-def content.

Thanks to the Xbox 360′s direct connection to a TV and the console’s focus on HD content, Microsoft can deliver both. Though exact sales figures aren’t available from any Web site or studio, insiders agree that it’s the most, and maybe only, positive story in digital movie downloads this year.

Many in Hollywood had high expectations that Amazon’s strength in DVD sales would spur the nascent Web download biz. But the Netco faces the same problems as competitors such as Movielink, CinemaNow, Guba and AOL that launched before it: It’s difficult for consumers to burn downloads onto DVD (save for a few titles on CinemaNow), and it’s tricky for all but the most tech-savvy to watch downloads on a TV.

Part of it is the tech savvy Xbox 360 demographic and part is the ease of watching a movie on a box already connected to a TV (which says something about where Windows XP Media Center systems are installed). There aren’t really any hard numbers, but the buzz is that despite the limited audience, Xbox 360 download numbers are equal to any of the PC download sites. While that’s certainly good news for Microsoft, it also illustrates the current sad state of Internet video downloads.

Posted at 10:00 am. Filed under Amazon, AOL, CinemaNow, Companies, Guba, Internet, Media Center PC, Microsoft, Movielink, Video Downloads, Video Games, Xbox 360

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November 30, 2006

AOL offers free movie downloads on Dec. 2

A number of tech news sites are reporting that AOL will offer 30 movies for free download starting at 6 AM EST on Saturday, Dec. 2. For example, BetaNews:

AOL said Thursday that it would offer 30 movies to users of its AOL Video portal at no cost as a holiday gift. The titles, which would include recent releases like Spiderman 2 and holiday favorites like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation normally sell for $9.99 to $19.99 USD. Users would be limited to one movie download, and would have 24 hours beginning at 6:00am ET on December 2 to download it.

The movies would be delivered in Windows Media format, and require a Windows XP computer running Internet Explorer and Windows Media 10 in order to view them. Once downloaded, the user would be able to view the file offline, as well as on one other PC and two Windows Media-compatible portable devices.

The only difficulty is that I can’t find a direct mention of the offer at the AOL Video site. On the other hand, searching for “Free Today Only” currently turns up 77 results (some are previews) including the movies mentioned above that say “When you download today, your credit card will NOT be charged.” Since there’s a day and half to go before the free offer starts, I’m a bit confused or the folks at AOL are.

In any case, the point for AOL is undoubtedly to get you to sign up and register the credit card that they won’t charge in hopes that you will eventually want something for which they can charge you. Caveat emptor, but if you see a movie you like, nothing beats free.

Posted at 9:35 pm. Filed under AOL, Companies, Freebies, Internet, Video Downloads

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November 14, 2005

AOL, Warner Bros. to provide free Internet TV

Press release:

Thousands of episodes from some of the most popular television series of all time will make a comeback exclusively on ( in early 2006, thanks to a pioneering collaboration between AOL and Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution to form a new broadband network. The network– called In2TV – will allow consumers to stream full-length episodes from favorite series such as Welcome Back Kotter, Sisters, Beetlejuice, Lois & Clark, La Femme Nikita and Growing Pains free and on-demand on the Web. Along with full-length episodes, In2TV will also include unique interactive features such as games, quizzes, polls, trivia contests and more.

This first-of-its-kind interactive video experience demonstrates the impact of broadband—now in 53% of U.S. households*–on the television industry, as broadband provides a new platform for television assets on the Internet.

So what took them so long? This is one of the synergies that were promised as a rationale for the original AOL merger with Time Warner.

And how are they going to make money off it? In2TV will be supported by advertising much like regular broadcast TV:

In2TV will provide AOL’s advertisers with compelling video inventory for instream broadband advertising as well as opportunities for sponsorships and accompanying banner ads. Video ads, 15-second and 30-second spots, will be limited to a total of 1-2 minutes within each 30-minute episode as compared to 8 minutes of advertising on broadcast television.

There are more programming details available by following the link, but from a technology perspective there’s something else:

These series will be offered in a new DVD quality video format called “AOL Hi-Q.” This new technology, which builds upon AOL’s industry-leading online video experience, enables high resolution, full-screen viewing. It will be made available free to any broadband user (along with standard-quality streaming). is the first major portal to offer this kind of high quality video experience to consumers.

And in fact, there’s a separate press release devoted to it:

The portal is the first to introduce a trial for a new “AOL Hi-Q” high quality video format. The AOL Hi-Q format builds on the Web portal’s industry-leading video experience ( and can deliver DVD quality videos, in addition to standard quality streaming video, free to broadband users. Consumers can view AOL Hi-Q video on demand as well as select to have new Hi-Q videos in a particular category of interest, such as online movie trailers, music videos, video game trailers and more entertainment content, pushed to them when they are available.

Using one of the industry’s first commercial-grade, peer-to-peer grid distribution networks, developed in partnership with Kontiki, AOL® Hi-Q™ can deliver DVD quality videos directly to consumers more quickly and efficiently. The peer-to-peer distribution network built by Kontiki features robust security to protect copyrighted content through digital rights management (DRM) and a centrally managed, highly-scalable delivery model that enables AOL to reliably deliver content to consumers. Through the installation of a simple plug-in, a special AOL Hi-Q video player provides a high resolution display with image quality designed for full-screen viewing on PC monitors or televisions capable of showing a PC interface.

So you’re actually signing up for a peer-to-peer (P2P) network developed by Kontiki and sponsored and managed by AOL. Interesting times indeed!

Posted at 7:09 pm. Filed under AOL, Companies, Internet, Internet TV, Kontiki, P2P, Time Warner, Warner Bros.

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