AOL’s Movie Deal

Such a deal: for five weeks, beginning Thursday, AOL Broadband subscribers will be able to download 10 Hollywood blockbusters at 99 cents each, thanks to a deal with MovieLink. Dulles, Va.-based America Online and video-on-demand service MovieLink’s “Winter Movie Special,” will run for five weeks.

MovieLink offerings include Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Finding Nemo, The Hulk and The Matrix Reloaded. Downloads will take from 30 to 45 minutes over the broadband connection, but users can begin watching them immediately or use the computer for other things until the download is complete. AOL will promote the 99-cent movies throughout the site and in its e-mail newsletters.

Subscribers will click a button and be taken to MovieLink’s servers to complete the transaction.

As with all MovieLink downloads, the 99-cent features will be theirs to rewind, pause or watch again for 24 hours; then, the movie will disappear from the hard drive.

“The promotion is a test of longer-form downloads,” said Steven Yee, vice president and general manager of AOL Movies. AOL has offered music downloads for more than a year, and its Theater B provides streaming classics like the Three Stooges. “We wanted to reach all segments of the market,” Yee said, “from families to business travelers, so we got titles that would span the audience spectrum.”

The inexpensive downloads will introduce AOL’s approximately three million broadband customers to MovieLink’s service, said MovieLink CEO Jim Ramo. “It’s a way for us to let people know that we exist and that we have a fantastic product. Just give us a credit card number and an e-mail address, and the download begins.”

Yee said AOL will use the test to assess what kinds of video-on-demand will appeal to users. Both AOL and MovieLink will also try to determine whether the promotion can attract new users for their services.

Los Angeles based MovieLink offers digital rentals of about 650 titles. The company uses Microsoft Media Player or Real Player technology combined with digital rights management applications. It’s engaged in similar sampling programs with Road Runner, Bell South and SBC broadband services.

“It’s a terrific way to get new customers,” Ramos said. He declined to say how well similar promotions had done, but said, “One of the things we’ll do at the end of the test is find out how we all did.”

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