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Online movie options

One of this column's regular topics is online music services. In the past few weeks, we've seen Irish launches of streaming services such as Eircom MusicHub and We7. If you want to download songs, there's iTunes, of course, 7Digital, eMusic, Amazon, Play.com and many more available to you.

When it comes to watching films legally online, though, our options are a little bit more restricted. There's myriad of services which will send out physical DVDs to your address, such as ScreenClick, O2 Click and more, but why is there a dearth of online streaming services for movies when they are established in other territories?

Two factors worth considering are the geographical size of the country and the poor, though improving, broadband penetration nationwide. A report by Cisco in October last year said Ireland's broadband speeds have jumped 87pc since 2008, but Ireland still ranks low in the overall broadband penetration stakes.

As for the relatively small population and country size, Ireland ranks second-highest in the world per capita for cinema admissions, so surely there would be a market for more online movie services? Or are we a nation happy to be at the mercy of online DVD rental clubs and an ailing number of video shops?

Another factor often cited is the reluctance from movie studios to license their films to potential streaming sites. Yet, in the US, Netflix have been successfully offering online streaming of movies alongside a DVD-by-mail service for years now, while Hulu offers movie and TV streaming from major networks.

The UK-based and Amazon-owned service LoveFilm recently launched an online service too.

Yet, Ireland's lack of services hardly seems to make sound business sense anymore when films are so easily available unauthorised on file-locker sites (Rapidshare, Fileserve, etc) and BitTorrent long before general release in this country. A quick glance at a now-annual report from Waxy's Andy Baio's pirated Oscar movie list (bit.ly/oscarspiratestats), shows that 23 of 29 nominated films are already available for copyright-infringing download.

So what do we have? Xtravision still has yet to recognise the move to digital services, having repositioned their physical stores as entertainment hubs over the past decade.

Apple finally launched an iTunes movie rentals and downloads service here last year ranging from €2.99 for rental and from €7.99 to €13.99 for purchase. The company is also pushing its Apple TV to accommodate these offerings in homes too.

Sky now offer an online on-demand service for movies and TV with their new Sky Player service, which is available to non-Sky customers. Prices for movie rentals from Sky are €4.50 per film.

If you're looking for a solution for independent films, Mubi.com offers a library of world cinema to devour throughout Europe for €3.59, with a decent selection of little-known titles available for free. Mubi is also available on Playstation3 consoles, while Xbox also offers a Zune store for movie downloads.

So it's not all bad news. Add to that the rumour that Google is in talks with movie studios to acquire rights to stream full films on YouTube, and Ireland's future in online movie streaming may yet be in glorious HD.

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