And so it begins...
So Universal has become the first UK distributor to announce a download-to-own service. At last, someone has made a move.
The service will be offered by Universal Pictures UK in association with DVD rental company Lovefilm and AOL from 10 April, and will initially feature around 30 titles including King Kong, Pride & Prejudice, Serenity and Nanny McPhee. For £19.99, film fans will be able to download two digital copies of the movie: one to watch on their laptop or desktop computer and one that can be transferred to a compatible portable device. They will also be sent a copy of the movie on DVD through the post.
Top marks to Universal for taking the plunge. The service isn't perfect: £19.99 might be a bit rich when you can buy DVDs for under a tenner at Tesco - you can't just buy a download on its own; and it's only Windows-compatible - so they won't play on video iPods or Macs. But these are issues that can sort themselves out over time.
The success of this - or any other - movie download service will be determined by the same combination of factors that has made iTunes so popular: a great range of titles, attractive pricing, ease of purchase and ease of consumption. This initiative has some way to go before it can tick all of these boxes but it's a great start and Universal deserve congratulations for having the courage to start the ball rolling.
Now the genie (or the Gorilla) is out of the bottle, those of us who have been watching this space can finally start to talk about what's happening instead of what might happen...