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Fox to release movie downloads weeks before discs

Prometheus launch playing with fire?

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Fox is to offer movie downloads up to three weeks before the films arrive on disc and in video-on-demand services in a bid to boost digital sales.

The studio's scheme will take place in the US, and push product - starting with Ridley Scott's Alien prequel, Prometheus - through the UltraViolet cloud movie service.

Prometheus will be offered to UV users in the States on 18 September - folk waiting for the DVD or Blu-ray won't get it until 11 October, which is when the film will also be made available to video-on-demand services, such as Netflix. The download will cost less too, though by how much will depend on the extent to which retailers discount a given title's discs.

Fox executives told the New York Times that the studio will offer early, lower-priced sales on all of its forthcoming films for an indefinite period to give it time to assess the scheme's impact.

Fox hasn't been part of the UV initiative until now. UV was established by Hollywood studios, including Warner, Paramount, Sony and Universal, to tackle piracy and declining sell-through video sales with a universal download and streaming platform.

UV promises films purchased from one store will sit alongside content bought from another; multiple devices are supported through UV partners' apps and, at the very least, through streaming via the web. Purchases movies can be streamed at will and downloaded whenever required. Multiple DRM technologies are supported. One UV account can be accessed by up to six family members. Buy a UV-tied disc and you also gain the right to stream and download it.

Tesco is one of UV's supporter companies but doesn't appear keen to bring it to the UK yet. Warner and Sony have said, however, that they will be ramping up their UV efforts here later this year.

In the US, digital movie sales remain an order of magnitude smaller that physical disc sales, though the latter are declining - H1 2012 sales were down 3.6 per cent on H1 2011, for example.

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