By Wayne Karrfalt

Although it has been confused as both, Culver City-based Intertainer is not an internet programming company and not exactly a video-on-demand vendor. Yet it offers an interactive content delivery solution for cable operators that functions as both. But if it's not an internet player and not a VOD company, what exactly is it?

Facilitating the convergence of the internet and the television may seem like presiding over a shotgun wedding for cable operators. The internet offers unlimited interactivity and e-commerce opportunities but poses security problems that scare studios to death. Video-on demand is a walled-garden solution that clearly has the potential to be a killer application, but technical issues remain, and so far, an industrywide solution for content acquisitions has yet to emerge.

That's where Intertainer comes in. While the entertainment industry was preoccupied speculating about which broadband pipeline-DSL or cable modem-would win the race to homes, and VOD vendors differed over whether to offer content directly, three entertainment execs conceived of a top-drawer content suite that would work regardless of the distribution method.

Intertainer delivers premier movies, TV shows, music videos, original content and games on demand through an elegant interface to television or computers by way of any two-way pipe fat enough to handle the data stream, including cable, cable internet and DSL. Its revenue-sharing model and content window mirror that of pay-per-view. Through Intertainer's circular browser, viewers can choose from 500 hours of movies, shows and videos a month, with complete pause-and-play functionality and seamlessly integrated interactive features.

Since the beginning of 1999, the company has managed to secure content partnerships with Warner Bros., Fox, Sony, Dreamworks, ESPN, NBC and the Disney Channel, to name a few. Of the Hollywood majors, only Paramount and Universal have resisted so far, due to concerns over how its video business will be affected.

"We think of ourselves as EOD-Entertainment on Demand," said Caroline Beck, Intertainer's COO. "We're the first company to aggregate all kinds of high-quality content and attach it to interactive advertising and e-commerce solutions. Content providers come to us because our virtual private network ensures security and guarantees quality. Without both, Hollywood products can't hold a secure window, and their business model falls apart.

Intertainer's agnostic approach has also attracted an impressive array of technology-orientated investors, including Comcast, Intel, U.S. West and most recently Microsoft, which now owns a little more than 20 percent of the company and is working to improve its compression algorithm to deliver the service through a smaller pipe.

A perfect fit with Microsoft's Web TV and its cable and set-top-box aspirations, Beck says, Intertainer provides the interactive content necessary to drive people to broadband. "The value of an application like ours is the reason why people would be interested in taking a fatter pipe into their home in the first place," said Beck.