News Corp’s internet properties, including MySpace.com, are to start selling Fox films and television content on a download-to-own basis in an effort to create a foothold in this potentially huge new digital market.
The service, which will charge $19.99 for new feature films such as X-Men The Last Stand and $1.99 for TV series episodes such as 24, will be available from October to users of the News Corp-owned gaming-oriented IGN Entertainment sites, with MySpace and others to come.
Peter Levinsohn, president of digital media at Fox Entertainment Group, said: “Our drive to deliver Twentieth Century Fox content via the most powerful online platforms is advanced substantially by this agreement.”
Using a digital download service currently popular with online gamers, the content will be downloadable from Direct2Drive.com, and transferable to Windows Media compatible portable devices, an alternative to similar services provided by Apple for use on its video iPods.
MySpace, acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp nearly a year ago, has grown to be one of the world’s most popular websites, with 100m registered users. The site, which particularly appeals to teens and people in their 20s, allows users to share videos, stories, pictures and also to comment on them and meet and “chat” online. In recent months, Hollywood’s largest studios have rushed to offer consumers the ability to download and own films via the internet on the same day they are released for sale on DVD, not least to try and deter them from opting for illegal downloads.
Services such as Movielink, a joint venture formed by five studios, and Cinemanow, as well as a growing number of deals between owners of popular online video sites such as Guba.com, mean that consumers can now easily buy or rent films to watch on their computers.
However, the inability to burn your own DVDs, the relatively high pricing of the digital offerings and a lack of name recognition of the services, mean they have been slow to take off.
Through its acquisition of MySpace and other properties, News Corp controls a large online audience. It is now working to develop this into a distribution platform for its content, as well as an advertising platform. Last week, the group agreed to partner with Google for search and other online advertising initiatives.
The Google deal, which included a guaranteed payment of $900m, has already covered a large chunk of the $1.5bn News Corp spent on internet acquisitions.
MySpace has yet to prove it can develop video advertising around its user-generated content and that it can work as a platform to sell other products. The download service is expected to include non-Fox content in the future as well.