A deal between a search technology company and an online film distributor could be a further step towards the next Big Thing on the Web: search engines that let you find movies and TV episodes by what is said within them – and then buy or rent them.
The tie-up between Santa Monica-based Movielink and Blinkx from London/San Francisco, has got some excited analysts declaring it to be a key development in bringing together television and movies with the world of Internet search. We’re inclined to agree and have touched on Blinkx TV search before.
The two companies plan to announce that Movielink, a downloading service owned by five major studios, will make its pictures available through the Blinkx search engine.
There’s no cash involved in this deal, as the synergetic partnership will give Movielink additional exposure and Blinkx access to movies that other search engines lack.
Blinkx uses speech-recognition and other technologies (licensed from Autonomy) to make a searchable index of trailers for the movie service’s nearly 1,000 titles.
So far, it has permission from Movielink to index only film trailers, but the company hopes to expand the index to include dialogue from the movies themselves allowing users to type in key phrases to find the required film and immediately download it for a set fee.
So an amnesiac Monty Python fan wanting a side-splitting night of sacrilegious entertainment could simply type in “he’s a naughty boy!” into the search engine and be offered “The Life of Brian” to immediately buy or rent and then download it to his media centre.
Not surprisingly, there’s a veritable minefield of technical, legal and DRM issues to be overcome before legal downloading of films and TV shows hits the mainstream, but Movielink’s willingness to work with Blinkx may open the door to Web big boys like Google, Yahoo and AOL etc.
“It is the next frontier,” said Allen Weiner, an analyst with research firm Gartner, “What we’ve been working with until now, is one-dimensional content on the Web that is advertiser supported. The next level, which will really change the economics of the Web, is searching and indexing premium content that does not live on the Web.”
“It’s kind of a small deal, but I think it will be a forerunner to the types of deals that you’ll see,” said Yair Landau, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, a unit of Sony Corp. and one of Movielink’s owners. “We’ve been waiting for Yahoo, MSN and Google to get serious about video distribution.”
The big search engines are already starting to index video content: Yahoo’s Video Search program already crawls the Internet looking for video files and Google has been recording thousands of hours of programming and indexing the closed-captioning text.
With TV networks starting to distribute more of their productions on the Web and the growth of broadband-enabled, home media PCs there’s clearly a growing demand for consumers to be able to access and download content legally.
This partnership between Blinkx and Movielink appears to be the first tentative steps into what may turn out to be a stampede of Web-based movie distribution deals.