New Aussie movie download service EzyDownload will initially only work on Windows and Xbox 360, but versions for Mac, Linux, set-top boxes and mobile phones are on the way.
The site, a spin-off from successful online and physical DVD retailer EzyDVD, is scheduled for a September launch. EzyDownload will use technology acquired from collapsed online media company Reeltime, which promoted the concept of downloads via set-top boxes. Former Reeltime investor and boss Andrew Wilshire is heading up the operation. Despite that pedigree, EzyDVD company director Jim Zavos is adamant that the rollout of multiple platforms will be gradual.
"At the moment we're keeping it simple," Zavos told APC. "We want to do one thing at a time." The service will use a custom player from US company ExtendMedia. The initial release will be Windows and Xbox only, but Zavos anticipates offering other versions — including Mac, Linux, set-top boxes and mobile phones — if demand is evident.
The ExtendMedia package includes a DRM solution, which Zavos said was inevitable with this kind of service. "The reality is if we don't have that we're just not going to get that content, full stop. The most important thing is getting the content from the studios."
The main current local competition for the site is Telstra's Bigpond Movies service (which is similarly Windows only). The threat of Apple's iTunes store (Mac and Windows) also lurks in the background, although the ever-secretive company has given no timeframe for when it might make movies available to Australian consumers (though it did this week launch TV episode downloads in Australia, indicating that movies might not be far away.)
One of BigPond Movies' selling points is that downloads aren't counted against monthly totals for Telstra ISP customers, a key issue given the size of movie files. EzyDownload wants to strike similar deals with other ISPs, which Zavos said would work on a profit-sharing basis. "It's really a revenue sharing deal for them, using our backend infrastructure to deliver content from their consumers. It's all about bundling deals."
The visibility of the EzyDVD retail site, which attracts around 40,000 consumers a day, would also help promote the site, Zavos predicted. "We're well recognised online, we are a movie retailer, so it's a natural progression From an online perspective, it's not like we're having to reinvent the wheel."
In the long term, Zavos visualises a shift from rentals (likely to be at the $6 a title mark) to downloading titles permanently. One possible model would be providing electronic copies alongside physical DVD sales (an approach Apple has also experimented with). "That's going to come but that's still really early days," Zavos said. "It's not on our radar in the short term."
Eventually, the site might also offer downloads from local television networks. "I get the feeling that's where it's going to go somewhere down the track, but our forte at the moment is movies and the studios. It would be premature to talk to [networks] at the moment."
Zavos is not predicting a massive switch to downloads from physical DVD sales in the next 12 months. "Initially, nothing will be a big chunk. When you look at the DVD market itself, 10 years ago people did not want to own their own movies. They were used to renting. The reality is it has to shift somewhere down the track, but it's not going to happen overnight. It's about positioning the company where we want it to be five or ten years from now."