Korea's Samsung Electronics Co Ltd launched a service allowing its customers to buy or rent movies and TV series to download to their mobile phones.

The breadth of Samsung's offering, which includes over 500 blockbusters from top studios Warner Bros MTWX.N, Paramount and Universal, makes it competitive with other mobile media offerings from Apple Inc and Nokia Oyj.

Samsung Movies, a dedicated virtual store for Samsung customers, launches initially in Britain and Germany and will extend to other key European markets later in the year, Samsung said in a statement.

The service, which features films such as The Dark Knight and TV series including E.R. and Friends, will be compatible only with video-enabled Samsung phones such as its new Tocco Ultra Edition.

Samsung plans to expand the service to notebooks, MP3 and MP4 portable music players and Samsung TVs.

Samsung Movies will use technology from privately owned digital movie retailer Acetrax, which holds agreements with film studios and music labels.

Prices start at 2.49 pounds ($3.55) for a 24-hour rental or 4.99 pounds to buy a movie.

Samsung said it would double its titles to 1,000 by the end of the first quarter and again to 2,000 movies and TV shows by the end of June.

UK-based research firm CCS Insight said in a note: The move is tangible progress in (Samsung's) convergence strategy and a first step in delivering consumer services to rival those from the likes of Nokia and Sony Ericsson.

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by David Holmes)