toronto library hoopla

Toronto Public Library could soon offer video streaming

Toronto Public Library is working on a deal to offer a digital streaming service similar to - though quite as comprehensive as - Netflix. An agreement with Hoopla Digital, which is currently still under discussion, would allow card holders to stream movies, TV, and music to home computers, cellphones and tablet devices.

The free service would work via the Hoopla application, which supports pushing audio and video to Apple TV boxes. Titles are automatically returned without incurring late fees and there are no holds or waiting lists for popular rentals, the company says.

Hoopla Digital currently provides streaming services for 40 North American public libraries. In November, the company signed deals with Universal Pictures, MGM, National Geographic and BBC America, adding to existing agreements with PBS, NBC, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Scholastic, and National Geographic. In Canada, the company is already operating in Edmonton and Hamilton.

Users borrow content for a fixed period via the Hoopla iPhone, Android or computer application. Using Edmonton's service as a guide, videos can be viewed for three days and music for seven before the app automatically hands the material back.

TPL already has an audio- and e-book contract with Overdrive, a distributor based in Ohio, and it's not clear at this stage whether that would change.

Don't expect brand new Hollywood titles; a quick browse of the Hoopla library reveals "new and notable" movies such as Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow (2004,) Johnny English (2003,) Angela's Ashes (1999,) and The Mummy (1999.) There's a decent selection of 90's classics, documentaries, and educational shows, however.

Music comes via Universal Music and Warner Music. Drake's Nothing Was the Same is one of the more recent titles that stands out among the offerings.

TPL hasn't announced how it will fund the planned deal. Hoopla's promotional material touts a pay structure that charges libraries only for the content users actually use - "there are no setup fees, subscription fees, annual fees, or long-term contracts," it says, which could be a boon for the cash-strapped Toronto library system.

According to a library spokesperson, an agreement could be signed as early as this week.

What do you think of the planned deal - will it be a win for Toronto's library service? Will you register for a library card to get access to Hoopla?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.


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