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The year of the Legal Film Download starts CES video frenzy

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This year's CSE saw big names committing to the video file download cause. But how realistic is watching films over the internet?

One of the underlying themes of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week was the idea of consumers watching films over the internet. We all know that's not possible right? Right. Not in real time, not unless you use genuine IPTV, complete with beefing up your network, and lots of complicated Quality of Service protocols.

Every attempt at making the general-purpose internet play films results in some awkwardness. Watching through a web browser means the picture’s not big enough or the pixels are too grainy. If you download a file, how do you stop piracy AND allow mobility, and you can’t guarantee the file will arrive in real time and how do you get it reliably to a big screen TV? If you download it to an iPod, the resolution’s not high enough to put it on a big screen. There are many issues and this is a “best bet” market.

So many of the announcements made at CES are not going to work out, but they have big names behind them and this is the genuine start of a huge drive towards finding the winner in video file downloads, which began in earnest the day Apple launched the Video iPod.

Google will launch a commercial video marketplace; Sony is adding films to its Connect online store; a Clear Channel video-on-demand service; another service from 4Flix.Net, and Blinkx has added short films to its video index, making them both searchable and available on-demand. Meanwhile, one of the suppliers to Google, iWatchNow, has launched its own VoD file download service, where you choose ad-supported or ad-free paid for. Finally, in the UK, online DVD rental company LoveFilm, which launched a file download system last month, has added Intel ViiV to the ways in which its films can be viewed.

That’s just in the first week of 2006, there’s a lot more to come.

In total, Intel has agreements with about 60 content partners - including AOL, Google, ClickStar, DirecTV and TV broadcasters NBC and ESPN - to use its Viiv technology in one way or another.

But given that it is the hottest name among all those mentioned, first let’s look at Google. This is what Google Video has all been about and that’s where the marketplace will be launched from. Getting at least one thing right, it says that video content will be available both to rent or to buy and says the sources include a major television network, a professional sports league, cable programmers, independent producers and film-makers.

For that read CBS, the National Basketball Association, Sony BMG and ITN. Perhaps the film-makers will be added later.

"Google video will let you watch lots of high-quality video on the web for the first time. You can search and browse, and we make it fast and easy for you to watch," said Larry Page, Google's co-founder and president. "For video producers and anyone with a video camera, Google Video will give you a platform to publish to the entire Google audience in a fast, free and seamless way."

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