COMPANY OFFERS MOVIE TOOLS TO TECHIES

By Gwendolyn Mariano

Video-on-demand provider Intertainer said Wednesday that it is offering software tools to developers, allowing companies to build their own video-on-demand services.

Called Demand E.S.P., the application will enable cable operators, broadband providers and content owners to manage, program, distribute and track video-on-demand (VOD) content.

Unlike pay-per-view, which consumers must watch on a scheduled basis, VOD lets people view a movie at their convenience as well as pause, rewind and fast-forward the service. Movies automatically time out when their "rental" periods end, preventing late fees that often plague people renting videos.

Intertainer said Demand E.S.P. consists of seven components that developers can use to customize a VOD service: asset management and production, programming and scheduling, distribution management, usage reporting, royalty management, Web-based services, and professional services.

The announcement comes as VOD services appear poised to turn into a mass-appeal product for cable and broadband Internet providers. Although big cable operators already are building their own services, analysts said Intertainer's product might give the company a revenue boost as it helps smaller companies launch VOD services.

"There are still thousands of mom-and-pop cable operators that serve one-fifth of the nation's households," said Richard Doherty, director of research for The Envisioneering Group, a Seaford, N.Y.-based technology testing and market research firm. "It's iterative revenue and helps (Intertainer) complete their business model."

Intertainer said Aliant Telecom, a Canadian telecommunications company, will be the first to use Intertainer's software tools to create a VOD service for its roughly 70,000 customers in Canada using DSL (digital subscriber line) high-speed Internet access. The premium service is intended to enhance Aliant's free VOD offering, which gives people access to an array of short-form programming, such as news, music videos and movie previews, Intertainer said. As part of their deal, Intertainer and Aliant will work together to secure licensing agreements.

"We've been perfecting this tool set for years on both the cable and broadband side of the business and believe we can offer a platform, as well as an unprecedented level of experience, to help companies in the U.S. and abroad launch their own VOD services," Intertainer CEO Jonathan Taplin said in a statement. "It's time for cable operators, broadband service providers and content owners to seize the momentum and brand their own VOD services."