Three Deals Boost MSN’s Stake in Movies

MSN is beefing up its Movies content through marketing deals with three providers of services for cinephiles. Agreements with Blockbuster, CinemaNow and MovieTickets.com mean the Microsoft-owned portal will begin offering DVD-by-mail subscriptions, on-demand movie downloads and theatrical ticket sales on a set of co-branded Web sites.

MSN said the offerings will complement its existing roster of movie content, which includes showtimes, trailers and reviews. For each partnership, the company has set up a co-branded microsite to process inquiries and orders.

Christine Andrews, product manager for MSN, said the agreements would help make the portal a prime destination for movie information and services. She declined to elaborate on any plans to promote the services, other than to say that MSN will plug them on its own properties.

“MSN Entertainment is one of the top click-drivers off the MSN homepage,” she said. “With these three new partnerships we have one aggregated place for movie content. We want to be the online destination for broadband users.”

Blockbuster announced its new online rental offering yesterday, following poor second quarter earnings and an admission by the company that in-store rentals are on the decline. Its price point is lower than biggest competitor Netflix, and the company hopes that its initial marketing partnerships with MSN and AOL will give it a strong debut in the movies-by-mail market.

“We think now is the opportune time for Blockbuster to enter the online rental business, and we plan to quickly establish ourselves in this arena by aggressively marketing, pricing and combining our online program and in-store capabilities,” said Shane Evangelist, VP and general manager of Blockbuster Online.

CinemaNow lets Internet users download movies and TV shows on demand. 2,000 films are available on a pay-per-view basis, starting at $3.99.

The alliance with MovieTickets.com is an expansion of an existing relationship. The number of theaters offering tickets to MSN users has increased from 600 to 750, and consumers can purchase tickets directly from 32 chains.

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