HIGH-SPEED INTERNET ENTERTAINMENT EXPANDS
By Jon Healey,
Times Staff Writer
Beating the Hollywood studios to the punch, Culver City-based Intertainer
Inc. is making its entertainment-on-demand service available today
to consumers with high-speed Internet connections in the 35 largest
The move will be backed by technology and marketing muscle from
Microsoft Corp., the largest investor in privately held Intertainer.
The movies, TV programs and music videos from Intertainer will help
Microsoft compete with the audio-video software and programming
from RealNetworks Inc., said analyst P.J. McNealy of GartnerG2,
a technology research and consulting firm.
Internet-based video services are expected to have limited appeal
until a much larger percentage of consumers have high-speed Internet
connections to their TV sets. Still, the move into 35 cities will
give Intertainer access to more than 10 times as many potential
customers as it can reach today, said Jonathan Taplin, Intertainer's
chief executive. Before today, Intertainer had been available only
to about 400,000 people whose cable TV systems or high-speed Internet
services had agreed to distribute its programming. Now, the company
can reach 5 million to 7 million people in New York, Los Angeles
and 33 other metropolitan areas with high-speed connections, Taplin
Intertainer isn't the first to offer movies through the Internet,
but it is the first to promise recent releases from several major
Hollywood studios. That is what the studios hope to do themselves
next year, through a pair of joint ventures, Movielink and Movies.com.
Intertainer lets subscribers watch movies on demand, with a full-screen
picture comparable to a VHS tape. Most competitors, including the
studios' service, require viewers to download and store large video
files onto their computers before playing them.
The company has deals with five studios--Universal Pictures, Warner
Bros., DreamWorks, Artisan Entertainment and New Line--as well as
several television and cable networks, record labels and other video
programming suppliers. Intertainer expects to line up at least two
more movie studios in the coming weeks, Taplin said.
The studio deals typically provide new releases to Intertainer
30 to 45 days after they appear in video stores, the same time they're
available on cable and satellite pay-per-view services, Taplin said.
But the deals vary in scope, and Intertainer does not have automatic
access to all of the studios' catalogs.
Microsoft plans to make Intertainer a featured video service on
its MSN Entertainment web site, as well as promoting it on WindowsMedia.com.
That should provide significant exposure for Intertainer, given
that more than 10 million people visit the MSN sites each month,
said Will Poole, vice president of the Windows Digital Media Division
Intertainer's expansion comes less than a month after Real's announcement
of its RealOne service, an ambitious combination of software and
programming. "Real had been ahead of them [Microsoft] on the
content deals," said analyst McNealy, but Microsoft responded
with two significant announcements in a week: the Intertainer deployment
and free audio Webcasts of National Hockey League games.
Intertainer charges about $8 per month for its basic programming
service, plus pay-per-view fees of $2.99 to $3.99 per movie. Real's
basic service costs about $10 per month.