Bell Canada has launched an online video store that sells and rents TV shows and movies for download, a service that pits the telecommunications giant against Apple Inc.'s iTunes store here in Canada.
Bell said its video service, launched Wednesday, includes more than 1,500 downloadable movies and television shows, and is the first service to offer download-to-own movies the same day they become available in retail stores and download-to-rent shortly thereafter.
Movies cost between $4.99 to $19.99 to own, while rentals cost between $1.99 to $4.99. With download-to-rent, customer can access their movie for 30 days after they download it and have 24 hours to view the film once they press play.
Users, however, will be restricted by what player they can use to watch the videos. Customers must install the Bell Video Store media player on their computer, and the service is limited to PC users running Microsoft's Windows operating system or owners of some mobile media players from Archos.
The videos won't play on Apple's popular iPod media players or computers running the Linux operating system.
The site is a collaboration between Bell and its partners, which include digital content services provider ExtendMedia and a number of studios, including Paramount Pictures, Corus Entertainment, Maple Pictures, Eros Entertainment and Image Entertainment.
Canadians looking for access to a wider range of online video have been frustrated by the slow arrival of online video services in the country, in part because providers have had to negotiate separate internet rights with the content licence holders in Canada.
Apple's iTunes Canada store, for example, only began to sell video for download in December, two years after they began a similar service in the U.S., and so far those videos have been limited to television shows.
Microsoft also launched downloadable movie rentals in December over Xbox Live, the online component of its video game console.
Bell's online store is the final version of videoplay.ca, a movie service Bell began testing last year. The launch comes as Bell is embroiled in a dispute over its practice of traffic shaping, or slowing the speeds of internet file and video-sharing applications such as BitTorrent.
While Bell has argued its traffic shaping is needed to ensure a few heavy users, particularly those who use peer-to-peer technology, don't slow down speeds for the rest of its customers, critics have argued the practice could have a significant effect on the video marketplace, potentially discouraging consumers from choosing to get their video online.