Content, ease of use hamper movie downloads

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BRUSSELS -- Online movie services continue to languish because they lack a strong library of content, and consumers have been deterred by their inability to transfer downloads from the computer to the television, according to a report published Friday by the Diffusion Group.

"Online movie services have to date failed to gain a critical mass of users," TDG president and report author Michael Greeson said. "Even Steve Jobs recently noted that Apple, among others, has failed to figure out what combination of features will prove sufficiently compelling to consumers."

Despite the presence of strong brand names such as AppleTV, Amazon Unbox, Movielink and CinemaNow, and the innovative services of such start-ups as Vudu, consumer interest remains low. Only 10% of adult broadband users have used an online download service either to rent or purchase movies -- and most of those who do, do so infrequently, the report said.

When it comes to movie rentals and purchases, the quality of content matters, it said. Greeson said the challenge is not only to boost familiarity with online movie download services, but to make sure that when consumers do visit a download site, they find high-quality content and a set of compelling features free from the complexities and hassles of traditional Web media sites.

One attribute considered imperative is getting online movie content to the TV rather than the computer monitor.

"Watching video on the TV is a well-established form of media behavior engrained in consumer behavior," Greeson said. "Watching full-length movies on the PC or on a mobile device, however, requires a paradigm shift of sorts, one that the vast majority of consumers are unwilling to accept."

Download services are now working to push their content to the TV.

"But until they deliver the right combination of features, even a TV-based download service may appear to be a poor alternative when compared to emerging cable VOD services or rental services from Blockbuster or Netflix," Greerson said.

Nor will the use of mobile phones for video viewing be sufficiently desirable to justify using a download service, the report said.

Greerson added that, although broadband-enabled video offers an extraordinary level of interactivity and customization, his research revealed that only a small proportion of users ranked this as important.
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