Disney-ABC Domestic Television and Microsoft on Wednesday announced that effective immediately, Xbox 360 game console users
can rent movies online
through the Xbox Live service.
The Xbox 360 features built-in networking capabilities, and users can register for a free Xbox Live account, which gives them access to online game demo downloads, videos and movies, and arcade games. The companies indicate that movies from Disney and its subsidiaries, including Miramax and Touchstone Pictures, are part of the deal.
Unlike the iTunes Store, where films and TV shows — including many selections from ABC and Disney — are purchased outright for playback on Macs, PCs, iPods and the Apple TV, the Xbox 360 uses a “rental” metaphor. Users can only watch movies they’ve rented for 14 days after downloading them or 24 hours from starting to view them. (Television shows downloaded through Xbox Live are “purchased,” however.)
Another key difference is that many Xbox Live movies, including the new Disney offerings are available in high definition (720p) format, encoded using VC-1 and containing 5.1 surround sound soundtracks. iTunes Store movies remain limited to 640 x 480 and are encoded in H.264 using AAC audio.
That’s not to say that Xbox Live movies are without restriction compared to the iTunes Store, however. They can’t be played locally on a Mac or a PC, can’t be transported to an iPod or other portable device, and expire within days of being downloaded.
Movies are rented using Microsoft Points, which can be purchased online or using cards available from retailers that sell the Xbox 360. A 1600 point Microsoft Points card costs about $20. High definition movies cost 480 Microsoft Points each; standard definition rentals cost 320 Microsoft Points each. Classic films in high-def cost 360 points; classic standard-def films cost 240 points.
In related news, Microsoft revealed during a press conference at this week’s E3 Media and Business Summit in Los Angeles that it has reached more than $125 million in revenue from its Xbox Live Video Marketplace since launching the service late last year. The company also revealed that it will offer videos to Xbox Live users in Canada and Europe by the end of the year.