Does anyone really want to watch movies on the web?

For those who aren’t familiar with Movielink, CNET is running a piece that provides a good overview of the service and its challenges.

I like what Movielink represents — five major studios who’ve seen the writing on the wall, and aren’t waiting for the MPAA to tell them how to deal with this newfangled internet thing. Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with IDC, agrees.

The motion picture industry is being proactive before we get to the point where video files are traded as readily as audio files. Even though there might not be huge demand, they’re trying to filter that future demand into something legal. It’s a wise investment.

Contrast this with the major record labels, who seem to be depending far too much on the RIAA — a dinosaur ill-equipped to innovate or do much of anything but “enforce”. At least the studios behind Movielink have noticed that an enormous comet has collided into the earth, and are mating with everything they can get their hands on in an effort to evolve before they meet their Napster maker.

Movielink has lots of challenges, of course. The first is that nobody wants to watch movies on the web. (Okay, a teensy tiny percentage of people might pay for such a thing, but let’s not split hairs.) As Ben Waggoner has said:

Movies aren’t the sweet spot for online content. It’s TV shows, which are much harder to distribute via DVD. Can you imagine how many people would be willing to pay $1 to watch the episode of Friends that they missed because they forgot to program the PVR or VCR? Or the first season of Alias, which they’re really into but weren’t during the first season?

Plus, TV shows are shorter, have lower quality requirements, and you can’t rent them at Blockbuster or have them delivered to your door by Netflix or Amazon.

In addition to the danger of not going after the low-hanging fruit first, Movielink may have have bigger problems.

For example, consumers are apparently not going to be able to do much with their media except watch it on the computer they bought it on. I definitely won’t be a customer until I know I can play the content on not only the computer I purchased it on, but also my laptop, my home theater system (via my PVR) and on that tablet PC I’ll be buying in a couple years. It’s a problem when early-adopters aren’t lining up for the service, but — more importantly — average consumer has been through a couple major media format transitions (cassette to CD, VHS to DVD) and aren’t going to want to touch this until they comfortable. Link