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Marketers Look To Cut HD Download Times

The battle between HD DVD and Blu-ray on the high-definition DVD front won’t continue in a vacuum: The formats also will be facing more competition in 2007 from high-definition digital downloads.

Internet movie download services have been offering high-definition downloads for the last couple years, but adoption has been even slower than for standard-definition movie downloads because of long download times and limited content.

But that’s beginning to change.

Microsoft began offering Internet-delivered high-definition downloads from major studios through its Xbox Live service for the Xbox 360 game consol in late November. HD downloads are only available for rent through Microsoft and take up roughly 5GB of hard drive space, but the console bridges the crucial gap between the TV and Internet.

Popular peer-to-peer service BitTorrent plans to offer high-definition downloads in 2007 when it launches its download store. The company’s P2P model allows for quicker download times that could make high def downloads a more practical alternative.

Another contender is MovieBeam, which began selling high-definition downloads from Disney and other major studios in April when it relaunched its service with a set-top box that connects to the TV. MovieBeam set-top boxes hold up to 100 movies, which are sent overnight to boxes through over-the-air datacasting technology provided by PBS stations.

More established players Movielink and CinemaNow have been selling high-definition downloads on select films from Image Entertainment, Imax, HDNet and other independent suppliers for nearly two years, but with download times nearing 15 hours, it’s a small business.

CinemaNow CEO Curt Marvis said there might be other ways to deliver high-definition downloads in a way that is more appealing to consumers, such as selling it as an overnight download.

“We believe in high definition, but it still has some challenges associated with it,” he said.