INTERTAINER, MICROSOFT LAUNCH INTERNET VIDEO-ON-DEMAND SERVICE

By GARY GENTILE

Intertainer Inc., which already provides video on demand via cable television, launched a nationwide service Wednesday to make movies available for viewing over the Internet. While the service is available in 35 markets, users must have a powerful, high-speed Internet connection to view content. Few people have such connections, making the market uncertain. However, Intertainer and Microsoft, a partner in the venture, say the service is aimed mainly at future users, including college students who typically have access to high-speed broadband networks on campus. "That's an important audience for us," said Jonathan Taplin, chief executive of Culver City-based Intertainer. "We did a trial at Bucknell and got far higher usage there than we would in a normal home." Taplin said game platforms, such as Microsoft's X-Box and Sony's Playstation, also provide high-speed Internet connections, and that most digital televisions allow people to display images from a computer on larger screens. Microsoft, an investor in Intertainer, will begin promoting the new service later this month through cobranded Web pages on its MSN service. Films will become available about 30 to 40 days after they hit video stores. Subscribers will pay $7.99 per month for access to a basic level of programming and must add $3.99 for a 24-hour license to watch new releases and $2.99 for separate library titles. Movies will be streamed using Microsoft's Windows Media Player. Other computer-based video-on-demand services, including competing models planned by a coalition of movie studios, require users to download large files to watch films. Intertainer will provide films through existing partnerships with Universal Studios, DreamWorks SKG, Warner Bros. and other studios and cable television networks. That arrangement makes Intertainer the first nationwide service with access to such a wide variety of mainstream movies. Smaller companies such as CinemaNow and Sightsound offer video on demand over the Web but do not have content deals with studios comparable to Intertainer. Several movie studios recently announced their own video-on-demand services, which are expected to launch sometime next year. Intertainer already serves several cable television markets around the country, providing the ability to pause, rewind and fast-forward through movies, music videos and sports programs.