BROADWING WILL TEST DEVICE THAT USES PHONE LINES TO DELIVER PROGRAMS TO TV

By Anna Wilde Mathews
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Entering an increasingly competitive race to provide on-demand home entertainment, Broadwing Inc. said it will test a new device that delivers movies and other programming to television sets via high-speed telephone lines.

The service will be provided by Intertainer Inc. (www.intertainer.com) of Culver City, Calif., which supplies an array of films, music videos, television shows and other content via cable or digital-subscriber-line connections. Broadwing, a Cincinnati telecommunications firm, will begin a small technical trial of the set-top box around Thanksgiving, and launch a broader test early next year.

The new Broadwing service becomes the latest entry in the increasingly crowded race to deliver various forms of entertainment on demand to a new generation of appliances expected to merge television, videocassette recorders and computers. Enron Corp. and Blockbuster Inc. have announced plans to deliver movies via high-speed telephone lines. Cable providers are making moves to enter the market, while entertainment companies could eventually also jump into the fray and serve up their own products directly to consumers.

"What you want is the depth of a video store in your home," said Jonathan Taplin, president and chief executive of Intertainer.

Broadwing said it hopes to start offering the device to its high-speed Internet subscribers in late spring. The company currently has about 37,000 DSL customers. Nationwide, telecommunications companies are battling cable operators to provide broadband Internet access. "We think this is another tool that gives us the opportunity to highlight the value of our platform," said Mike O'Brien, president of ZoomTown.com, Broadwing's broadband services subsidiary.

So far, details of pricing have yet to be finalized, he said, but customers won't have to pay for a second DSL connection. The new generation of video-on-demand services, like Intertainer, allow consumers to fast-forward, rewind and pause movies. The programming will be streamed using Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media player and copyright-protection technology.

Broadwing will offer a VCR-sized box made by Dallas-based uniView Technologies Corp. It will also come with a keyboard, so customers can use e-mail or surf the Web on their televisions. The company has already been involved in a trial with the Intertainer service delivered to computers.