Movielink, a joint venture of five Hollywood studios to offer movies over the Internet, has signed a deal with Twentieth Century Fox, allowing it to offer movies from all major studios for the first time.
The deal, announced Monday, comes at a time when studios and TV networks are looking at alternative ways to distribute programs, including video on demand and portable devices, such as Apple's iPod.
While Fox has offered some of its content online at sites such as CinemaNow, it waited until more homes had high speed Internet access and could view downloaded movies on large screen TVs before signing a deal with Movielink.
"I think you're going to see us be a lot more aggressive in the next few months," said Peter Levinsohn, president of Worldwide Pay Television and Digital Media at Fox, a subsidiary of New York-based News Corp. "This marketplace is really going to start to grow."
Movielink and similar legitimate movie download services exist, in part, to offer an alternative to illegal piracy. But Movielink has yet to become popular, in part because films can only be viewed on a computer or watched on a TV screen using a cable.
But over the next few months, consumer electronics devices, such as the recently released XBox 360 game console, will allow users to more easily view material stored on a hard drive on a large TV screen.
Studios also are expected to experiment with other business models, including allowing viewers to purchase movies online and burn copies to DVDs.
"The end of 2005 and into 2006 is really a watershed year," said Jim Ramo, chief executive at Movielink. "I think you're beginning to see a snowball effect."
Starting Monday, Fox will make movies such as "Robots" available and will add more movies over the next few months.
But viewers won't see any of George Lucas's "Star Wars" films, which Fox distributes in theaters and home video. Fox does not own the Internet distribution rights to the films.