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The year of the Legal Film Download starts CES video frenzy

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The Sony announcement is pretty bland, almost as if Sony wanted to keep a low profile at CES, and it simply said that Sony will launch an updated version of its Sony Connect online store in March where PSP customers can buy films, videos, TV shows, games and ebooks.

But given that Sony has been talking for more than a year now about digitizing and selling its top 500 films through ISPs, over the internet and in flash-memory format, and that it owns about 8,000 films through MGM, Columbia and Tri-Star, it is enough of an announcement. The problem that Sony has here is that its Connect software isn’t always well received. There are a number of discussion boards and blogs that go on and on about the Connect software that is supposed to work with its Sony Walkman phones.

Connect is now the second most popular music store according to one recent research report, but the phone versions remain buggy, even though it is just a PC download application, which subsequently copies to a phone.

The Clear Channel VoD service that was mentioned at the show to Reuters is about providing access to several thousand music videos from Warner Music and Universal Music, with more labels to come on board, and is part of a strategy to bolster the ailing radio company’s internet presence.

4Flix.Net was, in fact, launched back in November, but has now added paid content at $1.99 each with no Digital Rights Management built in, and has some short form entertainment available for free. There were only 41 films on it when we were looking, ranging from the original Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) to the 1970 version of Jayne Eyre. The concept looks sound enough, but the content is neither plentiful nor compelling.

They are, however, encoded in AVC/H.624 and will go straight onto an video iPod and can be downloaded and played on anything that has Quicktime 7.0, including Mac and Windows PCs and the iPod.

Blinkx, similarly, has added some free short films to its video search site (from the BBC Film Network, LoveFilm, Tiscali and World Cinema Online), but once again, nothing spectacular, and there is a feeling that Blinkx has yet to make its move into paid online delivered content.

The iWatchNow service, launched this week, will, on day one, have more than 3,000 hours of programming with television classics such as the The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, Bonanza, Dragnet, Dick Tracy, Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life, The Jack Benny Show, Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger and many original cartoons.

But it is the collection of classic films that the company is pinning its hope on, featuring early first efforts of actors that went on to be big stars. So that means Dustin Hoffman in Madigan's Millions, Kevin Costner in Sizzle Beach USA and Robert DeNiro in the The Wedding Party and The Original Chronicles of Narnia from the BBC made in 1979.

The TV shows, films and music videos cost $0.99 per view with the first step being a $3.99 viewer download, but everything can also be watched for free if you are prepared to watch it with advertisements.

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