Sears, Kmart Debut Digital-Movie Rental, Sales Site


Sears and Kmart on Tuesday launched Alphaline Entertainment, their entry into the digital-movie rental and sale industry.

The retailers, both owned by Sears Holdings, are powering their online video store using the RoxioNow platform that also drives Best Buy's CinemaNow, so the services have much in common, including available film and TV titles.

Roxio is owned by Sonic Solutions, which is being acquired for $720 million by Rovi.

Alphaline charges per title, making the service less like Netflix's subscription model and more akin to Apple's iTunes, except that it's not yet available to Mac users.

Sears said six months ago that it was working on Alphaline.

Television episodes sell for $1.99 and movies sell for $19.95 and rent for $3.99. Most content cannot be burned to a DVD, but users can watch their rentals and purchases on a TV screen connected via S-video jack to their PC.

On Tuesday, renters at the site, alphaline.roxionow.com, made The Other Guys, The Town, Inception, Easy A and Devil the most popular film choices.

Among TV shows, episodes of Fringe, Two and a Half Men, Hellcats, Chuck and Human Target were the most popular.

Content is stored in a "virtual locker" and also can be downloaded to a PC, which is a good idea for consumers who don't want to lose access to movies and TV episodes they own due to them entering HBO's window. Chalk that up to a complicated rights issue that drew scorn Tuesday from BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield.

"HBO has a pristine window that prevents any files (even one you have purchased already) from being streamed to you," Greenfield wrote. "The viewing period says 'Unlimited.' Unfortunately, this great-sounding offer is blatantly false. Unless you click 'More Info' next to the words 'Unlimited,' you would have no idea that movies such as The Town become unavailable even if they were fully paid for in your cloud-based locker."

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