News

Downloadable movies are in demand

Stacy Downs
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

The on-demand world is in demand.

Thousands of movies and TV shows are available for instant viewing online. Just go to a (legal) downloading Web site, click on "Batman" and the tale of the Caped Crusader begins in moments. No schlepping to the video store or waiting for discs to arrive in the mail Kansas City artist Van Sneed prefers paying Apple iTunes to download "Lost" episodes he has missed to watching the free versions on abc.com.

"It's free of ad interruptions," the 24-year-old Sneed said. "And the quality of the picture is better."

Last year, when Netflix first started offering movies and TV episodes that people could watch on their computers, the company offered only 2,000 titles. Its library has since tripled, said Steve Swasey, vice president of corporate communications.

"They have a great following from the 30-and-under crowd," Swasey said. "People older than that would rather lean back instead of forward to watch a movie."

Netflix's instant-view movies are included in members' subscription fees. At other sites, people pay rental fees, usually about $4 for new releases. Netflix also streams its movies on the Internet instead of offering downloads that people can save on their computers. For both types of technology, you can stop, rewind and fast forward.

Mitchell Gore of Overland Park, Kan., was curious about Netflix's streaming movies so he recently watched "The Sum of All Fears." The 22-year-old Sprint network engineer liked how quickly he could get the film, but he saw room for improvement.

For starters, he prefers watching movies on his high-definition television to his laptop. It takes work to hook up a computer to a TV. There are components people can buy, such as Apple TV (starting at $229) or a Vudu (about $300) to watch high-def movies off the Internet instantly on a TV. Amazon Unbox's downloadable movies and TV episodes can be watched on TVs through TiVo digital-video recorders. Netflix is developing a set-top box with LG Electronics that's due out later this year.

"Having people buy more hardware is really expensive, plus it's just one more component to take up space," Gore said. "It should be integrated into a cable box."

Gore can't imagine buying a downloaded movie. "It costs about the same just to buy a disc and then you always have it and the packaging," he said. "You're not going to always have that computer or component that a downloaded movie is stored inside."

Gore sees a problem with digital rights management software, known as DRM, designed to protect movies from being copied. It means if Gore wanted to watch a rented movie on his computer and his iPod, he'd have to pay for the same movie twice.

"For now, I'll keep renting discs," Gore said. "But I'm going to be watching to see what happens with downloadable in the future."

___

AMAZON UNBOX

Selection: 20,000 movies and TV shows for rental or purchase.

Terms: If you rent a video, you have 30 days to start watching it. Once you start watching it, you have 24 hours to complete your viewing. If you buy a video, it stays on your computer.

Cost: Most TV show rentals cost $2; movie rentals start at $3; movie purchases start at $5.

For more: Go to amazon.com. Click on "digital downloads," then "Unbox movie & TV downloads."

APPLE ITUNES

1,600 movies and TV shows for rental or purchase, and 10,000 music videos for rental.

If you rent a video, you have 30 days to start watching it. Once you start watching, you have 24 hours to complete your viewing. If you buy a video, it stays on your computer.

TV show rentals cost $2; movie rentals start at $3; movie purchases start at $10.

Go to apple.com. Click on "iPod + iTunes."

NETFLIX

6,000 movies and TV shows for viewing. Unlike Amazon Unbox or Apple iTunes, it doesn't offer many new releases because of issues with streaming movie rights.

The videos can be watched at any time while online.

Steaming movie service comes with subscriptions at no extra cost. However, viewing hours are limited for members on the $5-per-month plan.

Go to netflix.com. Click on "browse selection," then "browse our instant watching selection."

CONNECT YOUR COMPUTER TO YOUR TV TO WATCH ONLINE MOVIES

1. Look at the back of your computer for a monitor connection. It should be a 15-pin VGA output, a DVI connection or an S-Video output. If you're unsure, check the video section of your computer's user manual.

2. Check your TV connections. If you own an analog set, look for an S-Video input. Most digital TVs have a VGA input.

3. For analog TVs, use an S-Video cable and a 1/8-inch left/right RCA cable for sound to connect to the computer. If your computer has only VGA, you should use a VGA-to- S-Video adaptor. For digital TVs, use a 15-pin VGA cable and a 1/8-inch to left/right cable.

4. For troubleshooting, go to www.techlore.com for detailed instructions.


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