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AOL Signs Studios For Movie Downloads

AOL will offer flicks from Fox, Sony, Universal, and Warner for download--but you can't burn a DVD.

AOL on Thursday said it has deals with four studios to offer movie downloads on its video portal.

Partnering with AOL are 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group. The distribution agreement is another example of Hollywood gradually embracing the Internet. The AOL service does not include the ability to burn movies to DVDs, a service recently launched by CinemaNow.

In announcing the download service, AOL said it has also added TV content. AOL, a unit of Time Warner Inc., is heavily focused on online video to attract visitors. The company in July launched 17 video content partnerships, and 45 on-demand channels for streaming TV shows.

Movies from the four studios sell for prices ranging from $10 to $20. Once downloaded using AOL's software, which must first be installed on the PC, movies can be watched offline, as well as on portable devices supporting Microsoft's Windows Media player. AOL's download software requires Windows XP, version 10 of the Windows Media player and Internet Explorer 6. The application does not support Apple Computer's Mac.

In the coming months, AOL planned to launch five more on-demand channels featuring TV shows, new and classics, from Fox Entertainment Group and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The shows include "24," "Prison Break," and "Hill Street Blues" from Fox; and "Charlie's Angels," "Starsky & Hutch," and "SWAT" from Sony Pictures.

CinemaNow in July started offering selected movies and videos for burning to DVDs from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Lionsgate, MGM Worldwide Digital Media, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, EagleVision and Sundance Channel. The deal made more than 100 movies available, which is a tiny fraction of the studios' libraries.

CinemaNow, founded in 1999, is privately held. Investors of the online movie service include Menlo Ventures, Microsoft Corp., Lions Gate Entertainment, Cisco Systems and Blockbuster.

CinemanNow rival Movielink has said it plans to offer a burn-to-DVD service, but has yet to announce deals with movie studios.

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