Best Buy to finally launch online movie service

It's been six months since Best Buy announced plans to open an online video store, and now the retailer is finally ready.

Best Buy announced that it bought the rights to Sonic Solutions' CinemaNow brand. The retailer had been deliberating what to call its service since Best Buy and Sonic Solutions forged a partnership last October.

With the CinemaNow name in hand, Best Buy will sell movies for viewing on a PC at, and more importantly, will move the service onto other hardware. Best Buy has already partnered with LG to include CinemaNow on Blu-Ray players and home theater systems, and will also ship its in-house TV brand Insignia with the digital storefront later this year. The website is already available, though it's not clear whether Best Buy will infuse its own branding with the site.

I'm all for more options in consuming content, but this move underscores how the download-to-television market is becoming fragmented as retailers try to get a piece of the action. Walmart, which recently acquired digital movie provider Vudu, will likely launch its own online storefront, and you can be sure that movies from both retailers will have restrictions on where you can watch them.

For example, CinemaNow's list of supported devices leaves a lot of holes, including smartphones, iPods, Zunes, the Roku player and Boxee software. Other services, such as Amazon, have similar gaps. Now, let's say a service comes along that aims to be compatible with as many devices as possible. How likely is that service to find a home on the same hardware that's already using a different storefront? There's no way out of this dilemma unless your TV turns into a shopping plaza, full of different retail choices, and I don't see that happening.

As it stands, the digital movies you buy are tied to a limited number of devices. For that reason, I'd recommend renting rather than buying digital films, because you don't really own the content anyway.

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