August 16, 2007

Kiosk-to-hard-drive video movie rentals

France-based video rental operator Cinebank plans to launch a new movie rental service in partnership with Archos called Moovyplay. The idea is simple, if not a little strange: customers will use special portable hard drives to download movies from store kiosks.

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The service is planned to launch in France in October, and if the test goes well, the company and its partners plan to launch Moovyplay in the rest of France next spring, then work on other regions. The plan is to eventually expand throughout Europe and even to the US, but only if it can succeed first in France.

The concept behind Moovyplay is strikingly similar to one that has been talked about in the US—store-based kiosks that download movies and burn them to DVD for customers to take home and watch. Moovyplay's movies would only be available as rentals, however, which will only be active for 30 days before becoming "inaccessible." But given how easy it has been to crack AACS, for example, it's pretty safe to assume that whatever DRM is chosen for Moovyplay's rental system will also eventually be hacked to bits, too, if it gains popularity.

The 14GB drives will be provided by Archos, the makers of digital media players, which the company says can hold 30 to 40 standard definition movies. The drives will be sold along with a docking station and HDMI cable for €140. In its announcement, Archos lauded the fact that the HDMI-equipped device could be hooked up to a TV without additional equipment. It's unclear whether users will be able to transfer data to the drives from their PCs. Such a feature would certainly be a big plus, but the movie studios would rather stab their own eyes out with sporks than allow users to that much access to the video files.

Pierre Cerisier, CEO of video buying group GDS, told Video Business that Moovyplay kiosks would be able to transfer movies quickly to the drives—six movies in about 90 seconds. Those are clearly standard definition movies.

According to Cerisier, Moovyplay has inked deals with nine French movie distributors and has made agreements with Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema to offer their titles for rental. It is also "in talks" with the other major US studios, although the service will not be available in the US just yet. "We wouldn't roll it out there ourselves," Cerisier told Video Business. "We would license the technology to someone who wanted to do it there. We just want to maintain the bank and manage the financial transactions, not operate all the equipment."

The company has not discussed details on how many movies will be available upon launch or how much each movie rental will cost. But even if both of those variables were favorable, the service still presents an inconvenience to users. How many users would choose to go to a store to download a movie from a kiosk when they could have the content delivered—either digitally or via the good old snail mail—to comfort of their own homes?

Posted by staff at August 16, 2007 04:28 PM