Internet movie-delivery service Movielink is introducing several software enhancements, including a feature that lets high-speed users watch a movie just minutes after they begin downloading it.
"We now have the best of both worlds — a streaming-like experience with the download," said Movielink CEO Jim Ramo.
Previous iterations of the Movielink software required consumers to wait until the download was completed before watching their selection — which could take a half-hour or more, even over a high-speed connection.
But using tools from Real Networks Inc. and Microsoft Corp., along with internal software Movielink developed, the service was able to craft a software algorithm that determines when enough of the movie file is stored on the PC to allow a consumer to begin watching, Ramo said.
Ramo estimates that half of Movielink's users access movies at 700 kilobits per second or higher. With the new software, "they might get the movies in one to two minutes, in effect on demand," he said.
In addition to the near immediate start, Movielink has tinkered with its software to allow consumers to rent movies multiple times during a 30-day window without the need to download the film again.
"The copy stays in the hard drive and is encrypted," Ramo said. "It is an indicator of our trust in the digital-rights management (DRM) of Microsoft and Real."
Movielink, which carries titles from all the major Hollywood studios, save for 20th Century Fox Film Corp., also added new book-marking software that allows consumers to stop a film, shut down the PC, then power back up and return to the same scene in the movie.
The company also streamlined the upgrade process for travelers with laptop computers. In the past, consumers who downloaded a movie at home on their laptop for later viewing on an airplane had to actually begin watching the movie at home to activate the DRM system.
"You had to start viewing the moving in order to individualize the hardware for the DRM," Ramo said. "That's no longer the case."
Ramo said Movielink also has taken steps to improve the look and feel of the service and has created a shortcut desktop icon for frequent users.
Movielink this fall will also debut two new targeted marketing campaigns — one aimed at travelers, the other at college students. Print ads will appear in in-flight magazines and college newspapers, Ramo said.
The company has set up a dedicated Web site for students (college.movielink.com). "This is the beginning of our segmented marketing campaign," Ramo said.
Movielink has signed a deal with BellSouth Corp., which offers links on its digital subscriber line home page. Ramo said talks are progressing with other high-speed providers, both in the cable and telco fields.
Ramo said MSOs are focusing on ways to enhance the value of cable modems, and acquire and retain new subscribers, which could include Movielink.
"They can segment and tier their [Internet-protocol] product offering and we can get marketing, and that reduces our cost," he said.