Digital Video Express - DIVX


    DIVX (Digital Video Express) was an attempt by Circuit City and the entertainment law firm Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca and Fischer to create an alternative to video rental in the United States.

    DIVX was a rental format variation on the DVD player in which a customer would buy a DIVX disc (similar to a DVD) for approximately $4 US, which was watchable for up to 48 hours from its initial viewing. After this period, the disc could be viewed by paying a continuation fee to play it for two more days. Viewers who wanted to watch a disc an unlimited amount of times could convert the disc to a "DIVX silver" disc for an additional fee. "DIVX gold" discs that could be played an unlimited number of times on any DIVX player were announced at the time of DIVX's introduction, but no DIVX gold titles were ever released.

    The status of the discs were monitored through an account over a phone line. DIVX player owners had to set up an account with DIVX to which additional viewing fees could be charged. The player would call an account server over the phone line to charge for viewing fees similar to the way DirecTV and Dish Network satellite systems handle pay-per-view. This method concerned privacy advocates who thought the information could be used to spy on people's watching habits.

    DIVX was sold primarily through the Circuit City, The Good Guys!, Ultimate Electronics, and Future Shop retailers. The format was promoted to consumers as an alternative to traditional video rental schemes with the promise of, "No returns, no late fees." Though consumers may discard a DIVX disc after the initial viewing period, several DIVX retailers maintained DIVX recycling bins on their premises.

    The DIVX rental system was created in 1998 in time for the holiday season and was discontinued on June 16, 1999 because of the costs of introducing the format, as well as its very limited acceptance by the general public. Over the next two years the DIVX system was phased out. Customers could still view all their DIVX discs and were given a $100 refund for every player that was purchased before June 16, 1999. All discs that were unsold at the end of the summer of 1999 were destroyed. The program officially cut off access to accounts on July 7, 2001.

    There was a large movement on the Internet, particularly in home theater forums, against DIVX. Competitors such as Hollywood Video ran advertisements touting the benefits of "Open DVD" over DIVX, with one ad in the Los Angeles Times depicting a hand holding a telephone line with the caption, "Don't let anyone feed you the line." The terminology "Open DVD" had been used by DVD supporters in response to DIVX's labeling of DVD as "Basic DVD" and DIVX/DVD players as "DIVX-enhanced." Many people in various technology and entertainment communities were afraid that there would be DIVX exclusive releases, and that the then-fledgling DVD format would suffer as a result. Dreamworks, 20th Century Fox, and Paramount Pictures, for instance, initially released their films exclusively on the DIVX format. DIVX featured stronger encryption technology than DVD (Triple DES), which many studios stated was a contributing factor in the decision to support DIVX first.

    Furthermore, the DIVX catalog of titles were released primarily in pan and scan format and with limited special features (usually only a trailer). This caused many home theater enthusiasts to become concerned that the success of DIVX would significantly diminish the release of films on the DVD format in the films' original aspect ratios and with supplementary material.

    DIVX appeared on PC World's list of "25 Worst Tech Products of All Time" in 2006 (as a "Dishonorable mention").

    Many Anti-divx websites were against Digital Video Express. at one point had thousands of people campaining to get rid of this format.

    As was widely reported at the time, when news of the demise of DIVX came, Circuit City was said to have lost at least $114 million because of the format's failure.

Supports all main video formats