Blockbuster, Best Buy Prepping Movie Downloads

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Lions Gate Entertainment CEO Jon Feltheimer spilled the beans about Internet video-download services from two of the studio’s partners -- rental chain Blockbuster and electronics retailer Best Buy -- that have not yet announced such services.

“We have nearly one-dozen active agreements in place for digital delivery of our content, with such major players as Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Blockbuster, Best Buy and Wal-Mart, with more to follow,” Feltheimer said on a conference call Thursday with investors.

Asked for comment, Blockbuster spokesman Randy Hargrove said, “We've said we intend to offer a movie-downloading service but have not provided any additional details beyond that.”

Best Buy also declined to comment. “We have not announced a video-download service at this time,” spokesman Brian Lucas said. “We don’t comment on something that is conceptual or a test until we launch it.”

That both companies are getting into the video-download business is not a surprise, as some of their key competitors have already moved into Internet-delivered movies.

In February, Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer and a major purveyor of DVDs and electronics, launched a media download site.

And Netflix, the DVD-by-mail startup that has given Blockbuster fits, is spending $40 million to roll out Watch Now, which provides a limited catalog of full-length movies streamed over the Internet. Netflix also recently hired Anthony Wood, the founder of digital-video-recorder company ReplayTV, to lead efforts to deliver movies to subscribers’ TVs over the Internet.

Feltheimer also discussed FEARnet, the video-on-demand and Internet horror channel the studio formed with Comcast and Sony Pictures Television.

He said FEARnet has been “an unqualified success, and we are looking at other similar opportunities.” While there was the suggestion at one point about turning FEARnet into a linear channel, Feltheimer said, “We have been much more focused actually on expanding the VOD offering to a number of other cable operators, and I think we are very close to being able to announce a couple of other major carriers.”

He added, “This is really the way television is going to be in the future, an on-demand kind of business. So we are less focused on whatever you might call a linear service as opposed to just universal carriage.”

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