updated 01:15 pm EDT, Mon September 27, 2010
Disney, Sony, Warner trialing early access movies
Disney, Sony and Warner are close to testing a proposed system that would give Internet access to movies before they've reached Blu-ray or DVD, multiple official and unofficial tips disclosed on Monday. Of the three, Disney would be the most aggressive and would let viewers watch movies on any web-connected device and possibly the PS3 and Xbox 360 as well. A Bloomberg contact said Disney would likely be modest, trying one movie under the plan in an early 2011 trial.
No mention has been made so far of Apple being involved, although its CEO Steve Jobs sits on Disney's board of directors and has sometimes influenced where and how ABC and Disney videos reach iOS and Macs.
In Demand, a partnership between Comcast, Cox and Time Warner, said through CEO Bob Benya that the collective is in talks for a similar option through cable TV and likely online. Time Warner CFO John Martin told those at last week's Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference that the provider would start its own trials by the end of 2010, likely pricing movies between $20 to $30 each.
The proposals have been widely seen as means of heading off both piracy and of boosting revenue from those eager to skip the usual three or more months between the end of a movie's theater run and its home release. Sony has been willing to try renting movies through its TVs over the past two years, but none of the projects have materialized into a regular service.
A step of the sort could be a minor hit against iTunes, Netflix, Zune Video Marketplace and other services that are locked to traditional schedules. Apple and other pay-per-title services usually have to wait until the same day as the physical copy, while Netflix has had to follow the pay TV cycle through several content deals to get major titles or else risk being locked out.