Miramax to Stream Movies over Internet

As many as 12 recent releases from Miramax Films will be streamed over the Internet in the coming months, the Walt Disney Company–owned studio announced April 19. Among the offerings will be 1998 Oscar winner Shakespeare in Love, which will be transmitted using encryption technology from SightSound, a company that has been renting films at its site for the past year, and that recently launched an Initial Public Offering of its stock.

The films will be available in the US on a pay-per-view basis, at rates likely to be lower than typical rental fees. The move is a tentative one for Miramax, according to production executive Bob Osher. "We're going into it cautiously," he said. "We're going to see how it goes, learn from it, and make sure the experience for customers is good." Even with broadband connections, Internet video is still vastly inferior to ordinary television. Slow frame rates, frequent glitches, and buffering errors can test the patience of the most fanatic Netizen. Computer viewing at any reasonable level of quality requires a machine with a fast microprocessor, plenty of memory, an excellent video card, and a high-speed connection.

Most computer users aren't there yet, Miramax acknowledged, and probably won't be for a few years, but the company feels the time is right to begin experimenting with movies on the Net. Some industry observers doubt the viability of Internet movies, and believe a more likely format will involve a converter box hooked up to a television or video projector. Miramax is still undecided as to when it will make films available in a digital streaming format: during or after their theatrical run, or in conjunction with the release of video rentals. Recent hit films from the studio include Scream 3, Good Will Hunting, and The English Patient.