DivX announced another ally today: the downloadable movie site CinemaNow. On some unspecified date in the future, the latter will offer customers the option of downloading movies in the DivX format (using the DivX DRM) instead of CinemaNow's usual Windows Media files. DivX's codec is impressive, but the main improvement the deal offers consumers is an easier way to play the movies they rent or buy on their TV set. The DivX DRM enables people to play the files on every DivX-certified device in their personal domains. For most people, that would be a DVD player. And unlike other DRM approaches in the market, DivX enables rented movies to be burned onto disc, not just download-to-own files. In other words, it's a practical living-room solution for online movie rental sites.
Apple, Netflix and Amazon.com have a different strategy for delivering rented movies to TV sets: they stream the flicks to specialized set-top devices (such as the Apple TV, Roku's Netflix box and Sony's back-of-the-TV Bravia Internet Video Link). DivX plays in that arena, too, with its DivX Connected boxes (currently available only from D-Link). The D-Link set-top is a solid entry into the field, although it suffers from the same limitations as everybody else's "media extenders": it's compatible with only a portion of the vast online universe of video. The challenge for DivX and CinemaNow will be to persuade more studios to embrace the DivX format and DRM; so far, the only announced taker in Hollywood is Sony Pictures. They'll need a much more comprehensive lineup than that to make the DivX option a meaningful addition to CinemaNow's service.