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Microsoft goes to the movies

MSN enters deals for online movie rentals, downloads and expanded ticket purchasing.

Microsoft has entered into three deals designed to bolster its MSN movies site, adding new features such as movie rentals and downloads.

MSN signed agreements with Blockbuster for DVD movie rentals. It also teamed up with CinemaNow for movie and TV show downloads. These new features come at a time when movie watchers have been turning to delivery services such as Netflix to dish up movies without leaving home.

"MSN is rolling out the red carpet to movie fans across the nation with easy access to renting, downloading or buying movie tickets online," Yusuf Mehdi, vice president of MSN's information services and merchant platform division, said in a statement.

For Blockbuster, the deal provides another distribution point for its rental service, which is increasingly feeling the heat from online rivals like Netflix. Earlier this week, Blockbuster announced its online DVD rental service, a move to compete against both Netflix and an online movie rental service from Wal-Mart.

Under the Blockbuster deal, MSN users can pay a monthly subscription fee to Blockbuster for unlimited rentals of three to eight DVDs at a time, with no limitations on when the DVDs need to be returned. The monthly fee ranges from $19.99 to $39.99.

In addition, MSN and CinemaNow will offer a pay-per-view service for $3.99 for a 24-hour period of viewing, as well as a monthly subscription service of $9.95. The companies will also offer a premium subscription service for $29.95 a month for TV and music content.

As part of the site changes, MSN will also expand its movie ticket sales from 19 to 32 theater chains.