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Studios may release VOD movies earlier

Major movie studios are getting closer to allowing video-on-demand services like Comcast's cable network to show movies at the same time that the DVDs are released, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

The move would be a substantial change in the traditional "windowing" system, in which the studios release films first to theaters, then to home video, and only later to on-demand services, pay-per-view, and television networks.

This system has been defended as a way to extract the most value possible out of a movie's release. Theater owners in particular fear that changing the system to release films into theaters and on DVD at the same time could undermine their business.

For their part, studios want to tap new on-demand services such as Apple Computer's iTunes for revenues, but are fearful of undermining the DVD profits that have been a windfall to their bottom lines for the past few years.