Blockbuster, Sonic Solutions in Web movie alliance

LOS ANGELES Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:59am EST

A Blockbuster store is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Handout

A Blockbuster store is seen in this undated handout photo.

Credit: Reuters/Handout

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Blockbuster Inc, trying to keep pace with rival Netflix Inc and others in the fledgling digital movie sector, on Tuesday said it reached a deal with Sonic Solutions to provide thousands of films to various devices.

Blockbuster will offer 10,000 premium films and 40,000 digital titles altogether to Windows and Mac-enabled computers, portable media players, Blu-ray Disc players, personal video recorders (PVRs), set-top boxes, mobile phones and Web-connected TV sets through technology owned by Sonic Solutions, which recently bought CinemaNow, an online movie pioneer.

Sonic Solutions and Blockbuster are collaborating with a many consumer electronic companies, including Sonic's existing CinemaNow partners, such as Dell, Archos among others.

James McQuivey, analyst with Forrester, said the alliance improves Blockbuster's competitive stance in the fledgling online delivery space.

"Netflix pioneered the idea of putting the service into more than one device. Blockbuster is trying to reassure technology partners that they are eager to get into the space," he said.

Blockbuster on Tuesday said it was considering a digital subscription offering down the road, but was sticking for now to offering films digitally on an a la carte basis via streaming and downloading.

Tom Adams, of Adams Media Research, said because Blockbuster offers films on an ala carte basis, it will have newer quality content than Netflix, which is often criticized for offering older titles.

Netflix has faced challenges in obtaining the rights from Hollywood studios to provide newer films digitally because it is offering them through a subscription basis and Hollywood has more restrictions when licensing movies digitally for subscription services.

"Blockbuster's selection will be better than what Netflix is offering," he said.

"Our goal through this alliance is to have the Blockbuster movie service available in a wide range of devices, beginning as soon as the second quarter of 2009, including PCs, portable media players, Blu-ray Disc players, personal video recorders (PVRs), set top boxes, mobile phones and Web-connected television sets," a Blockbuster spokesman said.

Sonic's CinemaNow will enable us to not only offer progressive downloads, but streaming, via a wide variety of consumer electronic devices.

(Reporting by Sue Zeidler; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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