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New Version of Movielink Aims to Speed Downloading

The revision also will make it easier to watch films on laptops, the company says.

September 03, 2003|Jon Healey | Times Staff Writer

Santa Monica-based Movielink launched a version of its downloadable movie service Tuesday that aims to fix two crucial flaws: long download times and portability problems.

Movielink, a joint venture of the studios owned by Sony Corp., Vivendi Universal, AOL Time Warner Inc., Viacom Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., offers about 450 movies on its Web site that can be rented for $3 to $5. But it can take more than an hour to download a movie, even with a high-speed Internet connection and compression technology. And once a movie is on a computer, it cannot be transferred to another device.

In its new version, Movielink enables renters to play a movie while it is still downloading instead of having to wait until the transmission is finished. That should give the service more of the instant-gratification quality offered by video-on-demand services on cable TV, said Chief Executive Jim Ramo.

Movielink used to require renters to download movies and the electronic keys needed to unlock them in separate steps, making it inconvenient for people to watch movies on their laptop computers while traveling. Now renters can get the movies and keys all at once.

The improvements will be a small help, said Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff, but the service won't really succeed until it can deliver movies to television sets.

Few Internet users are able to connect their TVs to their PCs in a way that would let them watch Movielink films.

Ramo said the security and networking technology needed to do that probably won't be available this year, but a number of companies are working on it.

"We are seeing the move from talking the talk to walking the walk," he said.

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