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Disney To Sell HD Movie Downloads Through Xbox 360

At the E3 gaming expo Microsoft announced a key strategic acquisition of content, landing a deal that brings Disney's feature films online for download through the Xbox Live service over the Xbox 360 game console. Included in the deal will be new and catalog movies from Disney, Touchstone, Hollywood Pictures, Miramax Films.

35 titles are available immediately, including recent hits such as Bridge to Terabithia, The Queen, and Deja Vu, and they will be available in high-definition. Moving forward Disney's new releases will be available for download over Xbox Live day and date with their home video counterparts.

Xbox Live works on a "points" system. New release HD movie download rentals cost around 480 points, which is the equivalent of about $6, with catalog costing around 360 points ($4.50).

Other providers offering content through the Xbox Live service include Comedy Central, CBS, CW, The Cartoon Network, Warner Bros. and A&E.

While we spend more time around these parts discussing such moves in the context of the next-gen HD disc format war, this move has large portents in the broadcast world. This week Amazon and TiVo announced a partnership through which downloads will be sold through Amazon to broadband Internet-connected TiVo DVRs. Both moves figure to offer competitive alternatives to VOD offerings from cable and satellite providers.

Nevertheless, we'd be remiss if we didn't acknowledge a couple of facts here. First, the game console war is undoubtedly intertwined with the next-gen HD disc format war. Sony has recently shifted its focus with its PlayStation3 game console to its functionality as a media hub, announcing plans (without defining them) to expand entertainment offerings, including movie downloads through its PlayStation Network. While Sony hasn't yet announced any key content deals, it has an inherent advantage in owning Sony Pictures, which owns movie and TV libraries, and the MGM library in addition to Sony BMG Music. Instant content waiting for delivery in other words, without signing a single deal.

Also, it bears pointing out (yet again) how different the launch of these HD disc formats is from DVD's launch ten years ago. And not just in having two competing disc formats. Consumers have so many more choices now in how they can acquire and consume content. The disc formats offer a far superior qualitative experience in picture and sound over any form of broadcast or download, but the fact is that whichever format prevails is competing for an ever smaller slice of the pie that is the general consumer's viewing habits.

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