US West Nears Deal for Internet Movies
By Steve Rosenbush
USA Today, New York, NY, Thursday, February 19, 1998
US West is close to signing a distribution deal with Intertainer, a
start-up venture that provides movies, music and other forms of
entertainment to PCs over telephone and cable TV lines.
US West plans to roll out the service as a feature of its new
high-speed Internet access service, to be available in 40 cities during
the next year. It would be the biggest deployment of entertainment
services over telephone wires.
Local phone companies that dreamed of providing video over their
networks during the mid 1990s formed two programming groups,
Tele-TV and Americast. US West is making the first major foray into
convergence since those ventures stumbled.
"We are very near to, but have not yet signed, an agreement," says
Joe Zell, president of data networking at US West Communications.
He said he expects a deal within a few weeks.
Intertainer executives attended a US West investment conference in
New York Wednesday, and Intertainer co-Chairman Jonathan Taplin
met Tuesday night with Solomon Turjillo, CEO of the
"From my point of view, we have reached an agreement, although
neither group has signed it," Taplin says.
Intertainer also has demonstrated its technology to Bell Atlantic and
GTE, and Taplin expects to strike more distribution agreements within
He cites two reasons why this partnership can succeed in delivering
video over phone wires.
Costs are lower. Cable TV operator Comcast is only spending about
$500 per home to provide Intertainer to its customers, Taplin says.
US West customers will pay $50 to $60 a month for basic high-speed
Internet access. Intertainer will provide movies and programs for an
additional pay-per-view charge.
The company was conceived by entertainment people, not
telecommunications people. Taplin and Intertainer co-founder
Richard Baskin are like baby boomers on steroids.
Taplin graduated from Princeton, worked as a roadie for Janis Joplin
and a tour manager for Bob Dylan and The Band. He produced more
than a dozen films, including Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets. He
also worked as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch.
Baskin composed and produced the score to the movie Nashville and
has directed videos and music specials for Elton John, Rod Stewart
and the Temptations.