Blockbuster Deal to Put Movies on Many Digital Devices

Blockbuster and Sonic Systems are teaming up to make digital content available on a wider range of electronic devices, the companies said on Wednesday.

Sonic Systems, perhaps best known for its Roxio disc-burning software, will provide a back-end digital content delivery system under the multiyear agreement as Blockbuster seeks to bolster its online offerings for a greater range of devices and in different formats.

Sonic Systems jumped into the digital content delivery space last November when it acquired CinemaNow, a company that offers services that let people download a movie and burn it to a DVD, buy pay-per-view downloads and download movies to own.

CinemaNow licenses content from major movie studios such as 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures and also works on the technical side with heavyweights Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Samsung on content distribution.

Blockbuster will sell the services, powered by Sonic Systems, under its own brand name. The two companies are also working with consumer electronic manufacturers to make the services compatible with Apple and Windows PCs, portable media players, set-top boxes and mobile phones, among other devices.

Retail Blockbuster stores will sell some of those devices, as well as making them available through the company's Web site and other retailers, the companies said.

The two said the deal will result in one of the most expansive video-on-demand offerings on the market. Blockbuster has been seeking ways to compete with companies such as Netflix, which has supplemented its mail-order movie delivery service with a set-top box for on-demand streaming plus streaming through Microsoft's Xbox and other digital media players.

As of last November, CinemaNow was offering at least 6,000 movies, TV shows and music videos through its services. Blockbuster launched its own set-top box, MediaPoint, in November with around 2,500 titles. Netflix offers 12,000 titles via its set-top box.

For the MediaPoint, subscribers pay a one-time US$99 fee, which also includes 25 prepaid movies, and then pay between $1.99 and $3.99 for each title rented. There's no monthly subscription fee.


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