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.