Xbox launches film download service

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BRUSSELS -- British, French and German owners of Xbox 360 consoles will be able to download to rent their favorite films and watch them on their game machine beginning Dec. 11, Microsoft announced here Tuesday.

Although the service has been available for more than a year in the U.S., this will be the first multiterritory hardware-based online movie delivery service in Europe.

The Xbox Live Marketplace Video Store will provide both standard movies and high-definition versions for rent at the estimated retail price of 3 euros ($4.42) and 4.50 euros ($6.64), respectively.

"We want to give consumers the entertainment they want, in the format they want, when they want it and at an affordable price," said Robin Truchy, European director of Xbox Live. "We are already offering HD games, HD music videos and the option to enjoy HD DVD format films, now we are offering HD movies to download and rent as well."

Although, initially, all movie content will be from Warner Bros. -- with whom Microsoft has an exclusive deal for content -- there will be 40 more movies available before the end of December. Among the full-length movies that Xbox 360 owners will be able to rent are: "300," the "Harry Potter" series, "The Matrix," "TMNT" and "Ocean's Eleven."

About 60% of Xbox users already go online through Xbox Live to download games and music videos and play Web-based games with other players. But the European rollout of the Xbox Live Marketplace service has been staggered because of the complex licensing issues for video content in different regions and to allow time to make deals with local content providers.

The total European movie download market is estimated to be worth 350 million euros ($516 million) by 2012, up from 17 million euros ($25 million) in 2007. The launch of Xbox Live Marketplace is part of a wider attempt by console and computer manufacturers to place their machines at the center of the home entertainment hub. Microsoft hopes its VOD service will consolidate its place in the living room media center and encourage users to watch videos and access the Internet on its console rather than through a television.
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