BigPond's Movies Online launches

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Telstra has launched its online movies-on-demand service.

Telstra today launched its online movies-on-demand service. BigPond Movies Downloads launches with more than 1000 titles available through seven participating film studios. In addition, TV shows and music videos can also be downloaded using the service.

BigPond managing director Justin Milne explained the service as a rental, not a purchase. The rental period starts when the customer first plays the movie and lasts 24 hours for new-release movies, and seven days for back catalogue films, TV and shortform films (less than 15 minutes) and standard TV shows. Music videos can be bought for unlimited use on up to five devices.

Although the rental period does not start until the movies are played, they must still be viewed within seven days or they will automatically delete. Older movies or TV shows have 30 days before they expire and are deleted.

The cost ranges from $1.95 for a 15 minute film or TV show, $2.95 for a standard TV show, $5.95 for a new release movie and $3.95 for a back-catalogue movie or music video.

BigPond members will receive a 20 percent discount and will not have downloads measured against their monthly quota.

At the launch today Milne also explained that users with “fast” broadband will be able to watch media as it streams, effectively making the service true movies-on-demand. The minimum requirements for streaming bandwidth were not made public at the launch, although Telstra recommended its new Cable Extreme service as ideal.

The online catalogue will be expanded with new titles each month. Sony Pictures Television managing director Jack Ford explained the companies release strategy: “Every month we will be adding selections from the latest Sony releases — just three months after they become available through video stores on DVD and before they can be shown on pay-TV or the free to air networks.”

Movies must be viewed through BigPond’s Media Manager, a 2MB download that allows customers to select, download and play media. The player component of the Media Manager is a re-skinned Microsoft Media Player 9. DRM is handled by Microsoft Media Player 10.

Film distributors are confident the service will be safe from hackers. “One of the reasons we are so comfortable about this arrangement is that Telstra has met all of our requirements about important commercial issues, like video piracy and copyright protection,” said Sony’s Jack Ford.

BigPond Movies product manager Lindsay Arnold said that all downloaded media cannot be copied to other devices, with the exception of music videos, which can be copied to up to five devices.

Downloaded media will playback at DVD resolutions. All media is encoded at 1.2Mbps, and a typical movie will weigh in at almost 1GB in size. Media will be viewable at 16:9 widescreen format.

In the future an “order by mobile” service will be introduced, allowing a customer to initiate a download remotely to their home PC using their mobile phone.

Of the future of the service, Arnold also said: “This is just a first step. We will constantly be looking for ways to enhance the service and its technology.”

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