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BSkyB P2P deal warms studios to movie downloads

A war with Google and Apple looming?
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

A war with Google and Apple looming?

BSkyB has charmed several major movies studios into allowing it to provide a legal P2P film download service to its customers.

Today BSkyB launched its 'Sky over Broadband' service, which enables Sky Sports or Movies subscribers to download clips or full-length features to their PCs without any extra charge to their monthly subscription.

The service has launched with a roster of 200 movies, although BSkyB plans to boost that to 1,000 in the near future.

The movie-focused service lets a user download a full-length feature film to their hard drive and watch it an unlimited number of times within 30 days - after which time, the file will be "automatically deleted" from the hard drive, according to BSkyB.

The service is currently only compatible with machines that run Windows XP and will not run on Macs. Content cannot be downloaded onto more than one PC, transferred to other devices or burnt to DVD.

Sky recommends a minimum connection of 1Mbps to work with 'Sky over Broadband', although even with a 2Mbps connection movies can take around an hour to download.

While movie studios have traditionally kept download services at arm's length, the success of legal downloads in the music world may have endeared them to the model.

Richard Freudenstein, BSkyB's COO, said: "The studios are all very positive and supportive - they like the idea of a legal service." BSkyB is also looking at the possibility of selling a movie download offering divorced from a traditional digital TV product in the future.

Steven Nuttall, BSkyB's director of business development, added the broadcaster had aimed to replicate the success of web-based music distributors. "We've taken the best of iTunes and Napster - the legal version of Napster - and we've tried to take the best of the web."

Such a move is indicative of the trend towards triple and quadruple play services - whereby ISPs, such as Sky after its acquisition of Easynet, are rolling out new offerings including video-on-demand and VoIP to help boost revenue to replacing the falling returns generated by broadband subscriptions.

Ian Fogg, analyst at JupiterResearch, said ISPs' transition to content sellers risks putting them at loggerheads with web-based video vendors, such as the Google Video Store and Apple with iTunes video download capabilities.

According to Fogg, ISPs could be in an uncomfortable position: by offering access to web-based stores, they risk depriving themselves of revenue when their subscribers shop elsewhere; if they restrict access to such content or make it harder for content stores to operate by charging, they make their broadband subscriptions a less attractive proposition to the public.

He added: "The problem for the ISP if it neuters internet services and internet content, broadband subscribers will say, 'I've had enough; I'll go to another ISP that won't restrict my access'."

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