For the first time, shoppers for additional disk-based storage will have a choice of buying portable drives already loaded with feature-length, DVD-quality movies.
Seagate, the world's largest hard disk drive maker, and Viacom's Paramount Pictures announced April 12 that they have come together to offer a total of 21 movies preloaded on 500GB Seagate FreeAgent Go portable hard drives.
The movies all will be made available through the use of a key. One movie, "Star Trek" (2009) comes unlocked on the drive and is free with the purchase.
The other 20 movies, which range from popular comedies to dramas to movies for children, will be made available for a cost comparable to buying a DVD off the shelf -- or $9.99 to $14.99 per film.
For example, other titles on the drive include "The Hunt for Red October," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and "GI Joe."
This arrangement, believed to be the first of its kind, is an example of the new methods of distribution that are being explored by movie-makers and their distributors.
"This is really an incremental distribution touchpoint for us," Malik Ducard, Paramount Pictures senior vice president of Digital Distribution for the Americas, told eWEEK. "It's a specific customer, a specific demographic that we're able to reach on an incremental basis."
Several studios now partner with Netflix and Apple's iTunes to provide movies for streaming or downloading from the Internet. Other video content producers are connected with Web companies such as YouTube, Hulu and others to offer movies and television shows as a hosted service.
Once the storage drive is purchased, the user can watch the movies on a laptop, desktop, netbook or on a television, using a Seagate Theater+ video player.
The FreeAgent Go drive docks inside the Theater+ unit to enable a user to show the movie on a television or home movie screen.
A way to "kickstart" a digital library
For Seagate, this is another way to demonstrate to its own customers that there are other ways to store content such as movies without having to deal with piles of optical disks -- whether Blu-Ray or DVD.
Twenty-one movies amounts to nearly two full days of viewing, if one figures an average of 2 hours per film. That's a lot of content, but thanks to several advances in disk storage techology in the last few years, it doesn't take all that much space on the drive itself.
"The 21 movies here only take up about 50GB of space on these 500GB drives," Gregory Falgiano, product marketing manager for Seagate, told eWEEK. "That's only 10 percent of the whole drive.
"We use a combination of methods to condense the content so as to take up less space on the disk. We have a variable bit-rate technology, for example, that stores fewer bits during the less-action-packed sequences, so we save space in that way. When there's more action and more detail represented on the film, the bit rate goes up."
This is one way to "kick-start putting together a digital library," Falgiano said.
The 500GB FreeAgent Go portable drives, which are small [4.75" x 3.25" x 0.5"] and lightweight, are available for the next 30 days or so for $99 at the Seagate Web site. The drives are normally priced at $139.99.