Fox trial pre-loads films on phones that you can pay to unlock

Movie studios and telecoms companies are always looking for new ways to control how audiences get hold of their content, and to make it easier to do so. Now, a new pilot program from Fox, Telstra, and Ericsson is taking a surprisingly direct approach — pre-loading films onto users’ devices, and then asking customers to pay to rent or buy the titles.

The pilot was announced today at Mobile World Congress, and will last for one month while the companies involved gather feedback. It’s an interesting idea, and has some obvious pros and cons.

Pro: the movies are available to watch whenever customers want, with no waiting for streaming or downloads in order to access full HD content. Con: the films have to get on the device in the first place. In the case of this trial, users are being shipped Samsung Galaxy S7 handsets with titles pre-loaded, but if and when it goes public, films would have to be download in the background, and would take up valuable storage space on peoples’ devices.

These downloads would be handled using zero-rated data from participating mobile carriers, and Fox says its software would give users control over how and when films are stored. The system would also know a little bit about users’ movie preferences, and download films individuals are likely to be interested in, then send them a notification when they’re available to watch.

Fox, Telstra, and Ericsson promise the system will have “no impact to device performance or consumer data plans.” The pilot has only been offered to Telstra subscribers, as well as Fox and Ericsson employees. Eleven films will be offered in the trial, including The Martian, Deadpool, Independence Day: Resurgence, The Revenant, and Life of Pi.

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