RealTime IT News

Movie Downloads Through Starz

Starz Entertainment Group, a leading provider of TV movie channels, today announced a new video service for broadband that delivers movies over the Internet to Windows-based PCs, laptops, and select portable media devices.

The new service, called Vongo, will also work on those old-fashioned boxes still found in many living rooms, according to the Englewood, Colo.-based company.

Vongo becomes yet another example of a growing trend of driving content to portable devices over the Internet.

It gives subscribers unlimited access to more than 1,000 movies and video selections, as well as a live, streaming Starz TV channel, for a monthly cost of $9.99, according to the company.

"By combining the wide array of programming choices on Vongo with a host of new portable media devices... consumers will be able to seize control of their video and watch whatever, wherever and whenever they want," Robert B. Clasen, president and CEO of SEG, said in a statement.

Starz Entertainment Group (SEG) operates under the Starz or Encore name and is owned by Liberty Media.

The offering comes at a time when video publishers, ranging from small independent producers to major media companies, are building business by distributing and monetizing video programming through broadband channels.

Pay and advertising-supported broadband video markets exceeded 100 percent growth in 2005 over the previous year, according to ABI. As consumer demand increases, content owners' demand for alternative outlets is expected to follow.

"Critical to this service are the Internet distribution rights we have acquired from our studio partners," said Clasen who added the concern about piracy over the Internet led to the development of "a robust digital rights management system to ensure that only those who are authorized to use this service will do so."

Since 2004, subscribers have had access to the Starz Ticket on Real Movies service with unlimited access to the Starz cable channel's library of movies, as well as a streamed version of the Starz service.

However, the RealNetworks software was unable to deliver to handheld devices, which prompted the firm to work with Microsoft to develop its subscription video content on Windows-based PCs, laptops, and select portable media devices.

Starz will now use Windows Media technologies to power the Vongo service, the company said. It has also partnered with Sony Connect, which will make Vongo part of its new Connect Video service later this year.

"Based on the evolution of the digital entertainment space, we believe that Vongo will be the critical component in a new entertainment ecosystem; combining services, Vongo's advanced user interface and a new generation of devices to offer consumers a truly unique offering," Bob Greene, senior vice president of advanced services for SEG, said in a statement.

SEG's stable of is the Hollywood studios include Walt Disney Pictures, Miramax Films, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Films, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Columbia Tri-Star, among others.

"An important strategy in the development of Vongo is to engage in a number of strategic alliances with technology, media and device companies in order to extend the reach of Vongo as far as possible," said Greene in the statement.