CinemaNow Offers Disc-to-Digital Service From Your Computer

Best Buy's CinemaNow service is making it even easier to switch from physical Blu-ray Discs and DVDs to streaming media with its new Disc-to-Digital service. Similar to Walmart's service launched earlier this year, the CinemaNow service allows customers to add their physical disc titles to an online streaming video library that can be accessed on media players/streamers, Smart TVs, smartphones and tablets. The best part of the new service is that you can do it from your computer instead of lugging bags of discs to Walmart.

Disc-to-Digital services work in conjunction with an UltraViolet account. UltraViolet is an online cloud locker service that makes available digital copies of movies you own and have registered with your UltraViolet account. Movies in your UltraViolet collection can be streamed to your TV or device using a number of partner services including CinemaNow, Flixster, and Vudu. Both the Vudu and CinemaNow services were purchased by retailers--Walmart owns Vudu and CinemaNow was acquired by Best Buy.

Having started a small collection of my favorite movies on UltraViolet, I checked out the new CinemaNow service. Starting on the CinemaNow website, instead of creating a new account, I used my Best Buy rewards account to sign in. During the sign up process, I had to link to my existing UltraViolet account. I could have set up an UltraViolet account if I didn't have one already. Again, the movies are not saved in CinemaNow, so you must have an UltraViolet account.

Next, I downloaded the CinemaNow player. I clicked on the Disc-to-digital tab and inserted Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Then I pressed "start." CinemaNow offers the choice of a standard definition (SD) copy of the movie for $2, or a upgrade to a high definition copy for $5. The price of getting an HD copy of a Blu-ray Disc is also $2. However, if you don't have a Blu-ray drive on your computer, the disc cannot be read and you can't get a digital copy using the CinemaNow Player.

When I inserted the DVD into my computer's drive, the computer's default DVD player program opened and instantly started playing the movie. To prevent it from playing automatically in the future, I went into the system preferences and opted that inserting a video DVD would not open the DVD player app.

Within a few minutes of buying the digital copy, Austin Powers appeared in my CinemaNow library. It played immediately on my computer, and moments later was available on the Vudu app on my Xbox 360. While there is only an SD streaming option on some media players (including the computer CinemaNow Player), the quality of the standard definition movie appeared to be superior to typical SD streams, and played with full digital surround sound.

Some titles are not not available through the CinemaNow service, but can be obtained Vudu or Flixster and vice versa. I noticed that some films would not appear in my library in Flixster when I first used the Walmart Disc to Digital service. Those same missing titles have since appeared and are available in all services. While 5 studios together created UltraViolet--Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount, Sony, and Twentieth Century Fox--you will not find Disney titles.

Note that you don't actually own the movie that is stored in the UltraViolet library for streaming. Under the option to "watch" or "stream," there is a disclaimer, "Buying a title lets you download or stream the title for an extended, but not perpetual, period of time. If you download after you buy a title, you may watch that download forever on that computer as long as you maintain the necessary software." It's not an either/or decision. After downloading a movie it is still available to stream.