ExtendMedia Extends Movie Downloads to Canada

U.S. residents have access to a growing number of online video portals, such as Movielink, Cinemanow, and Apple’s iTunes store, where they can buy or rent movies for download on the same day they’re available in retail stores on DVD. Thanks to the complexities of international licensing, however, most of these services aren’t accessible to people outside the United States. But yesterday Bell Canada, with help from Newton, MA-based video software company ExtendMedia, launched the Bell Video Store—the first site in Canada to offer same-day movie downloads, and the first telecommunications company anywhere to do so.

“Bell is farther ahead than a lot of telcos down here,” says Keith Kocho, president and founder of ExtendMedia, whose “OpenCase” software runs the video store’s back end—pulling in content, presenting an online catalog, handling customer transactions, encoding the content for download, and then playing it on customers’ computers. “But I think you’ll see more of them down here [offering Internet video-on-demand] too.”

In fact, ExtendMedia’s whole business is to provide hosted or turnkey video delivery systems to companies that want to get into the Internet video market, and Kocho says the company expects to announce more partnerships similar to the Bell Canada deal soon. Unlike many competing platforms—including software from local competitors like Maven and Brightcove—OpenCase is agnostic when it comes to business models and delivery methods, according to Kocho. It can handle download-to-own movies, time-limited rentals, and free ad-supported downloads (it’s been handling the latter for NBC Direct since this winter). It can send movies to almost any type of computer or media player—including video iPods, Archos media players, and the Xbox 360. “We’re a little different from most other folks,” says Kocho. “Our service was purpose-built to let customers choose the business model they want.”

The Bell Canada deal isn’t surprising, given that ExtendMedia has production facilities in Toronto and previously assisted the company with its video-on-demand coverage of World Cup soccer matches. Moreover, Kocho himself is Canadian, and admits to subscribing to cable sports channels “mainly so I can watch the Maple Leafs fall on their swords every year.”

But “it’s an interesting time,” in Kocho’s words, and video-download options are only going to multiply over the coming months. “We have long maintained that the large service providers will have to start to give into the pressure created by services like iTunes and launch direct entertainment services over the Internet,” he says. “But a lot of the companies that wanted to follow that lead earlier found there were a lot of barriers: incompatible devices, low-quality viewing experiences, people’s unwillingness to pay for a service that was going to be bound to a particular computer. Slowly but surely, those things are breaking down. Bell is one of many companies that we expect to see come into the mainstream.”

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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