| 8.8°C Dublin

Sky to roll out online film rental service for customers

SKY is planning to roll out an online movie rental service in Ireland in what could be another major threat to the high-street DVD rental business.

The TV giant is rolling out a video-on-demand service to its UK customers offering new releases from £3.49 (€4.23) and older movies from 99p (€1.20) each. A Sky Ireland spokesperson said it intended to introduce a similar service to its customers in Ireland within the next few months.

New releases depicted on the store's website include 'Moneyball', 'Tintin' and 'The Help' and the company claims to have more than 1,000 movies to choose from. The videos can be downloaded directly to a Sky+HD box by customers who have a Sky TV subscription.

However, they do not have to have a Sky Movies subscription, making it an attractive option for customers who only want occasional access to films.

The move will come as a challenge to both DVD store operators and new streaming services like Netflix. Online competition and the retail squeeze have seen the demise of dozens of high-street DVD rental stores in recent years, including both independent operators and once-popular chains such as Chartbusters.

DVD rental company Xtra-Vision refused to comment on what its competitors were doing. However, its chairman Peter O'Grady-Walshe pointed out that the company had returned to profitability after going through the examinership process last year.

That had led to the closure of 18 loss-making stores nationwide, but had also resulted in substantial rent reductions which had allowed the company to regroup with its 165 remaining outlets.

"We are planning to open four new stores in the next six months," he said.

Piracy and illegal downloading of movies have been a far bigger threat to all rental services than competition from legitimate suppliers, but the Government's new copyright legislation would help tackle that problem, he added.

Extensive

Netflix, which offers Irish customers a monthly subscription service to stream movies and TV programmes to their homes, said it did not see Sky's move as a threat to its business here. Since it started up in January, thousands of people have signed up for its €6.99-a-month service offering unlimited downloads, a spokesperson said.

"It's a very different model, as we give our customers access to a very extensive back catalogue of TV series, movies and documentaries that we're adding to all the time, she said.

Exact figures for Irish subscribers cannot be given until the company's official results are published, but they were "very, very happy" with the response here, she said.

Irish Independent