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Blockbuster.com to stream AtomFilms movies

Boosting its efforts to get into the online entertainment game, the movie rental outlet teams with the distributor of short films and says it will use the start-up's streaming technologies.

Blockbuster is adding short films to its online collection--but not for rent.

A subsidiary of Viacom, Blockbuster is one of the world's leading movie rental outlets, with 6,000 stores in the United States and around the world. But for some time Blockbuster has been trying to get into the online entertainment game.

Now the company has struck a two-year deal with AtomFilms, which distributes short films on its Web site, airlines and other broadband services. Atom will show movies from its site on Blockbuster.com and lend the company streaming technologies.

Blockbuster.com gets 1 million page views per month.

Atom's technology likely will factor into Blockbuster's other plans to deliver movies over the Net.

Last month, the company announced a nonexclusive agreement with the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studio to develop a model to make select MGM films available for streaming and download.

"This announcement is an exciting next step for Blockbuster as we continue to pursue avenues for our customers to receive quality, in-home entertainment through electronic delivery," Shellye Archambeau, president of Blockbuster.com, said in a statement.

For the Seattle-based start-up, the deal could help Atom gain exposure and build an audience for short films delivered online. The alliance with Blockbuster also could prime it for a desired initial public offering.

Some major players and companies already have unveiled plans to compete with Atom.

Imagine Entertainment and DreamWorks SKG teamed with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in October to launch Pop.com, a site that will allow users to view short live-action or animation clips, live events, and video on demand.

San Francisco-based iFilm.com, launched in February 1999, also airs 250 indie films directly through its Web site.