Not so long ago, movie downloading seemed like a great idea that wasn't quite ready for prime time. However, recent events suggest that the time is now ripe -- and cable network Starz, a Liberty Media (NYSE:L) subsidiary that has previously flirted with online video, is back at it again.

Starz already has a similar service using technology from RealNetworks (NASDAQ:RNWK). It made a splash in the media in 2004, but many of us haven't heard much about it since then. (Foolish colleague Seth Jayson wrote about it here.)

Of course, now that Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iTunes has had some preliminary success in offering video content for the iPod, it stands to reason that more of the players in this area would try their hand at this, or expand their reach, as Starz is doing.

At this time, the new offering from Starz, called Vongo, will be for use with devices that use Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) software, such as the Portable Media Center, and of course, PCs and laptops. It will cost $9.95 per month -- cheaper than the Starz Ticket service with RealNetworks, which was $12.95 -- and it will eventually offer users a library of 1,000 movies. It will also offer concerts and TV shows. Although Starz Ticket isn't going anywhere, the company is reportedly going to focus on pushing Vongo.

There are other companies that have long seemed no-brainers for downloaded movie content -- such as Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO). Netflix seems to be showing plenty of subscriber momentum, though it's still offering old-school DVDs through the mail, and hasn't yet set its sights on a downloading service: Given the increasing attention to downloading as a viable offering, though, investors might start to more urgently wonder about its plans for digital delivery.

Meanwhile, TiVo, of course, has already dabbled in this arena with its TiVo To Go service, which can also be used with Microsoft's Portable Media Center and users' computers.

Regardless, the obvious question might be whether a service like this can gain much traction. Apple has iPod mania fueling its own video offerings -- an enthusiasm that Microsoft's Portable Media Center hasn't managed to elicit from customers thus far. Now is the time for rivals to strike, but in my opinion, it'll be an uphill battle to make much progress against the iPod's ubiquity. And if Apple does release a much-rumored device to link computers and televisions for downloaded entertainment, its rivals had better look out.

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TiVo and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.