Reaching for Real Starz

Nearly two years after first announcing plans for a video on-demand
service, RealNetworks and Starz Encore Group have
finally launched a $12.95 a month movie subscription service for broadband
users.

The Starz Ticket on Real Movies
service will hawk unlimited access to the Starz cable channel’s library of
movies, as well as a streamed version of the Starz linear service. This is the first time a
premium movie channel has been delivered simultaneously over broadband, the
companies said in a statement.

The deal has been in the
works
for more than 18 months and provides a major outlet for
RealNetworks to display its Helix DRM technology and new RealPlayer 10
software.

The Seattle-based RealNetworks has already found some success with the
subscription-based Rhapsody music service. The plan with Starz is to
avoid the a la carte model for selling movie rentals.

According to Starz CEO John Sie, the “all you can eat” subscription model is easier to sell
than the transactional pay-per-view option, and it will work well with subscribers’
viewing habits.

More importantly, with digital rights management technology,
the cable networks and movie studios maintain a measure of control in the
ongoing battle against online piracy. The RealNetworks/Starz service will
allow paying subscribers to download movies on three computers, enough to
offer flexibility for consumers and protection for content owners, the
companies explained.

“We have long been opposed to piracy, having seen the havoc it has caused
in the music industry. Offering a legal, high-quality, convenient service at
a great value is the best way to prevent illegal file sharing and put the
movie industry on the right path,” Sie added.

At launch, Starz Ticket on Real Movies is only available to U.S.
subscribers with a connection speed of at least 600 Kbps. Movie rentals can
be streamed to a television in the home via an S-Video cable, and
RealNetworks promises fast-forward, rewind and pause features available on
regular DVD players. To maximize bandwidth usage, downloads can be scheduled
overnight.

The new offering is up against the entrenched MovieLink service, which
offers pay-per-transaction
movie downloads. MovieLink is backed by a slew of big-name
studios, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures
Entertainment, Universal and Warner Bros.

RealNetworks already provides
technology
that powers the MovieLink service.

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