BT launches films to buy on-demand for YouView

Michelle Clancy | 06-02-2014

BT has made a pay-TV breakthrough with the addition of electronic sell-through (EST) of film to its UK on-demand strategy.

After shaking up the pay-Tv market with sports services that have rattled dominant player BSkyB, the incumbent telco is now offering films to buy as well as rent.

Movies bought from BT can be streamed instantly to a customer's YouView set-top box (STB), which can house the content indefinitely. BT said that it intends to expand the service to include other boxes over the coming months.

Some US operators, like Comcast, have offered similar limited services to date, with the UltraViolet project the most visible EST approach that takes the TV specifically into account. It makes use of a cloud-based digital locker system to establish a common digital distribution platform across the home entertainment ecosystem and delivers films and TV shows to any compatible device, including STBs from pay-TV providers. However, if other providers follow BT's lead and leverage their STBs to provide proprietary digital delivery, UltraViolet's future becomes very uncertain.

But, it's still very rare. In the US, No 1 pay-TV operator Comcast launched its Xfinity TV Store in November. Customers who buy a TV show or movie from their set-top box or online can watch the purchased titles in multiple ways: on TV through Xfinity On Demand; on a computer from the website; or with the Xfinity On Demand Purchases app for iOS and Android.

Verizon's FiOS service meanwhile has offered movies for purchase (also viewable on multiple devices with the Flex View service) since late 2010.

In terms of details, BT customers will now be able to buy a swath of films from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, in both HD and SD, and library films and classics. Pricing starts at 8.99 for films in digital HD and 5.99 for SD.

Ironically, BT's first content partners are both supporters of UltraViolet. "BT TV's new service complements Fox's strategy of fostering easy, affordable and accessible ways for film fans to enjoy their favourite movies in digital HD," said Robert Price, UK managing director at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

At launch, available titles include: The Wolverine, DreamWorks Animation's Turbo and the Croods from Fox; Elysium, Oscar contender Captain Phillips and the Smurfs 2 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; and older titles like the Social Network, the Alien franchise, Black Swan and Jerry Maguire.

Films are especially popular with BT customers, BT noted, with a film being rented through BT Box Office video-on-demand service every minute. BT offers more than 600 films, and has a partnership with Curzon Home Cinema where customers can watch many of the top titles on the same day as their cinema release.