CES 2007: Showtime to launch video download service for Windows Vista

Pre CES 2007 coverage - New York (NY) - Showtime Networks will be the next to take a shot at making video downloads for PCs more popular. The company said that it will be demonstrating a new service aimed at Windows Vista PCs at the Consumer Electronics Show 2007, which will open its doors in Las Vegas next week.

Few details have been revealed about the service, which so far has not even received an official name. Showtime said that it will provide a first glimpse at the Windows Vista booth, which will include a pilot of what is expected to launch by the end of this month. What we know is that Showtime is banking on the "OpenCase" technology foundation developed by ExtendMedia, which is already in use for example by Intel's ClickStar venture.

Also, Showtime will limit its service to a "download-to-own' service, which is different from many other download offerings, including MovieLink and CinemaNow. Content apparently will be restricted to Showtime series initially and include, for example, Weeds, The L Word and Sleeper Cell. Company spokesman Stuart Zakim declined to comment on specifics such as digital rights management (DRM) features and pointed to the launch date at the end of January instead.

However, ease of use and DRM has been at the heart of video download services so far and it will be interesting to see, if Showtime was able to convince itself to loosen the exaggerated copy protection mechanisms currently employed by the aforementioned companies. Both MovieLink and CinemaNow charge DVD-level prices for their movie downloads, but either do not allow consumers to burn movies to functional DVDs or make this process discouragingly complicated.

Also, content is restricted to playback on three PCs in a best case scenario, which makes digital movies less portable and useful than a traditional DVD. In fact, current DRM restrictions prompted us to highlight the deficiencies of this technology and the way it is currently used in our top-10 technology disappointments for 2006.

Showtime confirmed that the download service will allow users to move video content to portable devices, but did not say if videos would be able to coexist on a number of devices at the same time.