Dishing up blockbusters

Sky broke out the bunting yesterday to announce a new movie download service for its Sky Movies customers, which enables you to legally download films and keep them on your PC for 30 days.

Sky By Broadband is available for no additional fee to Sky Digital customers. You can log on to the Sky website, register and start watching movies on your nominated PC.

Richard Freudenstein, Sky’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “Entertainment needs are changing fast and audiences increasingly expect to be able to access content wherever and whenever they want.”

The movie broadband service is essentially a lending library. Your chosen flicks sit on your hard drive for around a month but you can’t copy them to disc, DVD or any portable device.

“There are no plans for it to go that way,” Freudenstein continued. “It would be difficult to progress in that direction. The studios are very positive about what we’re doing; they’re supportive of a legal, downloadable service. Those studios we don’t have commitments from, we’re in positive negotiations with.”

The website shows you how to set up your preferences and even recommends movies to you. But what if you’re not a Sky customer?

“This is an incentive; to those who are thinking about getting Sky, it’s another reason to sign up but essentially it’s about constantly improving the service to our existing customers.”

The other main concern is the length of time a movie will take to download, something which Director of Business Development Steve Nuttall doesn’t believe is an issue. “By having a legal peer-to-peer network service we’re confident we can cope with the demands, even in peek time. On a 2MB. connection, it should take around an hour to download a two hour movie.”

Steve gave Total Film a demo of the service and there’s no denying, it’s pretty impressive. The picture quality is cracking and being able to personalise your movie library is a nice touch - but there are some serious drawbacks. The service works in partnership with Microsoft Windows XP, so MAC users are just plain out of luck. Also, there is no exclusive content – this is essentially Sky Movies on your home PC, so no Sky Box Office flicks are available via the package.

The new venture also includes Sky By Mobile, which allows you to access various delights from your GPRS or 3G enabled phone – no movies on the mobiles just yet but you can put a bet on the gee-gees while catching the latest clips from Dream Team… if there’s no paint drying somewhere that needs watching.