Warner Bros. to open online video store in Japan

MUMBAI: Warner Entertainment Japan Inc. plans to launch Warner On Demand, a website where Japanese consumers can rent or buy Warner Bros. films and TV series for the first time ever directly from the Studio via VOD (video-on-demand) and download to own ("Electronic Sell-Through") on their PCs and mobile phones by the end of November 2009.

The announcement was made by Warner Entertainment Japan Inc. president and representative director William Ireton and International Warner Home Video and Digital Distribution executive vice president Asia-Pacific Marc Gareton.

Part of a global Warner Bros. loyalty programme begun in the US, and now extended to Japan, Warner On Demand customers will receive regular news and updates from the Studio on all Theatrical, Blu-Ray, DVD and digital VOD and EST new releases and be able to participate in special promotions and sweepstakes.

To buy content through Warner On Demand, consumers will purchase a series of points, which will be exchanged per transaction for Warner Bros. films or TV content. Consumers will have access to a wide range of Warner Bros. content, both film and TV series, from classic catalogue titles through to the latest features, including a number of titles never before released on DVD.

The Harry Potter series, films 1 – 5, will be available from launch on download to own (with 1,2 and 3 available on VOD from 2 December  for a limited period), and the blockbuster hit film Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince will be available, download to own, from 2 December , (and on VOD and seamless re-screening, from January 8th, 2010).

Warner On Demand is part of an important strategic initiative perfectly suited to Japan’s leadership in technology. It will help us understand and support our customers better and at the same time help to grow the overall market for online video in Japan", said Ireton.

At launch, Warner On Demand will be the only website that offers WB content on a download-to-own basis (Electronic Sell-Through). Another key feature of the service is first ever seamless re-screening function between mobile phones and PCs. Consumers will be able to purchase a film on a Video-on-demand basis and if they stop the film in the middle on their PC, they can continue watching from the same point on their mobile phone. The reverse will also be possible.

"Today’s consumers want to watch our content wherever, whenever on whatever platform they desire and nowhere is this more obvious than in Japan with the advanced networks on PC and mobile phones. Warner On Demand responds to these needs. Being closer to the customer will in turn enable us to better market our films and TV series going forward." said Gareton.

"With the arrival of Warner On Demand, and thanks to our partnership with Skillup Japan, Japanese consumers will finally be able to buy our films and TV series to own on their PCs. We hope also to reduce piracy by giving the customer legitimate services that are useful and exciting," said Warner Bros. Digital Distribution Japan executive director Julian Lai-Hung.

Warner Bros. is partnering with Japanese software venture Skillup Japan to make this service available. Warner On Demand will run on Skillup Japan’s ULIZA video content delivery platform. At launch, Warner On Demand will be available on PCs and only to NTT Docomo users for access by mobile phones.