AOL to offer downloads for movies, TV shows

/ Source: The Associated Press

Movies and television shows from Paramount Pictures will be available for sale through AOL's new video portal under a deal announced Monday.

Classics such as "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "Chinatown" and newer releases like "Mission: Impossible III" will be sold for $9.99 to $19.99 each, comparable to fees at online services CinemaNow, MovieLink and Guba as well as sites operated by MySpace-owner News Corp.

Consumers will own the movies and can transfer them to as many as three other computers or portable devices that support Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Player technology.

As more Americans get high-speed broadband connections at home, studios and television networks have been experimenting with ways to distribute their programs over the Internet. Some show programs for free on their Web sites or at AOL with ads, while others sell them outright through Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes Music Store, Inc.'s Unbox and others.

The Paramount offerings, which include television specials, are for sale only.

The deal with Viacom Inc.'s Paramount follows similar agreements announced in August with News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox, Sony Corp's Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, NBC Universal's Universal Pictures, and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group. AOL LLC is a unit of Time Warner. NBC Universal is a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Vivendi Universal.

AOL saw users defect to rivals' free e-mail and other offerings as it kept trying to charge subscription fees of as much as $26 a month. Although AOL has recently made those services free as well to better compete for online advertising dollars, analysts believe the company may have a better chance in emerging fields like online video.

In early August, the company launched a video portal that tries to aggregate clips and full-length programs from around the Internet — some free, some for sale.  The company wants to be a one-stop site for video, although it faces intense competition from veterans like Yahoo Inc. and startups like YouTube Inc., which Google Inc. is buying for $1.65 billion.