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Facebook streams 'The Dark Knight' in a first step to challenge Netflix, Apple, Hulu

March 8, 2011 |  8:48 pm

DKonFB

Facebook is now officially in the increasingly competitive market for watching movies online.

On Tuesday, Warner Bros. offered up its hugely popular film "The Dark Knight" for rent on Facebook.

So far, that's the only movie that can be streamed over the Internet and watched within Facebook, but Warner Bros. has said that more of its films will soon be available too, as reported by Ben Fritz on the Times' Company Town blog.

From Fritz's report:

Facebook fans who "liked" director Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" can now pay $3 to rent the superhero film through the movie's page on the site. Warner Bros. said that over the coming months it would make additional titles available for rental or purchase.

The new offering, which Warner described as a test, is part of an ongoing effort by Hollywood studios to offer their movies in more ways online to boost the still-nascent digital-distribution business. Increasing online rentals and sales is critical for the entertainment industry as revenue from DVDs continues to fall.

Warner Bros. seems to be among the more active movie studios looking to the Web and different platforms to distribute its films. Last month Warner Bros. launched iOS apps for "The Dark Knight" and "Inception" -- two blockbuster films directed by Christopher Nolan. From within the apps themselves, users can buy (and download) or rent (and stream) either movie.

In order to watch "The Dark Knight " on Facebook, users have to first have "liked" the movie's Facebook page, and then allow a "watch app" for the film to install itself into their Facebook account -- granting Warner Bros. access to each user's name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends and "any other information I've shared with everyone," which for many will include e-mail address and just about anything posted on their respective Facebook profile pages.

Facebook users then have to pay for the right to watch the film using 30 Facebook Credits (equal to $3). Once paid for, by credit card or PayPal or via cellphone, the film can be viewed on Facebook as many times as a user would like during a 48-hour period.

After 48 hours, the right to view the film expires. Watching it on Facebook again costs another 30 Facebook Credits.

Facebook, which is the most popular social networking website in the world and the most popular photo-sharing site too, is launching a threat to the current heavyweights in movie and TV streaming: Netflix, Apple, Amazon and Hulu (owned by NBC, Fox and ABC).

Netflix is currently the most popular streaming video service, with a subscription-based option that allows users to watch movies and TV shows over the Internet for $7.99 a month.

Amazon is looking to take on Netflix as well, and last month it added streaming video to its Amazon Prime subscription offering, which runs $79 a year and also offers free two-day shipping on items purchased from Amazon.com.

Apple is a major player in the still-emerging market of video over the Internet, with streaming rentals and downloadable purchases for TV shows and movies through its iTunes store. Other players include Best Buy's Cinema Now and Blockbuster on Demand.

RELATED:

Warner Bros. turns 'Inception' and 'The Dark Knight' into iPad, iPhone apps

Amazon adds streaming video to Prime subscriptions in a bid to rival Netflix, Hulu

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

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