Almost a month ahead of schedule, Telstra BigPond has launched Australia's first nationwide movies-on-demand service at an inner city Sydney cinema.
Promising more than 7500 titles from studios such as Columbia, Tristar, MGM and Sony Classics, the service will enable broadband subscribers to download feature-length digital films, documentaries and television series.
Prices range from $1.95 for a television show to $5.95 for a recent release. The movie files are designed to automatically delete themselves after a specified time period. However, with file sizes ranging from 500MB to 1GB, downloading a digital film will take six hours on the average 256K broadband connection.
The BigPond movies launch was also timed to coincide with the launch of a new Cable Extreme broadband connection, which is capable of speeds of up to 17Mbps, enabling it to download a feature length film in just six minutes.
"With Cable Extreme, customers will be able to begin watching a movie immediately while the rest of the film downloads in the background," BigPond group managing director, Justin Milne, explained.
Although the movies will be made available to all broadband users regardless of which ISP they use to connect , BigPond is making the service particularly attractive to its own customers by not including movie downloads in monthly usage tallies.
Speaking after the launch, Milne conceded that most families were not yet prepared to watch feature-length films on a laptop screen. However, he said the PC was only a point of entry for the digital material and not necessarily the point of consumption.
"Today, we are talking about experiencing digital movies on the computer screen, but come March 16 and the launch of the Intel Viiv platform, consumers will be able to transfer that file to any screen they like," Milne said. "A TV is just a screen that happens to be in the lounge room, it won't really matter where it gets the signal from."
Canberra telco TransACT has been offering a Video on Demand (VOD) service, to over 13,000 subscribers for four years.