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January 3, 2006

Starz Vongo Internet movie service jumps the CES gun

Posted by David Hunter at 10:47 AM ET.

Starz beat the press release stampede at CES by announcing a new Internet movie service named Vongo today with partners Microsoft and Sony:

Starz Entertainment Group LLC (SEG) today announced the premiere of VONGO — a new video download application and service for broadband that delivers movies and other video content over the Internet for playback on Windows-based PCs, laptops, and select portable media devices, as well as on a TV.

“Vongo will provide the key content application that will drive a new era in portable video delivered over the Internet,” said Robert B. Clasen, president and CEO of SEG. “By combining the wide array of programming choices on Vongo with a host of new portable media devices being announced this week at the Consumer Electronics Show, consumers will be able to seize control of their video and watch whatever, wherever and whenever they want.”

Vongo subscribers will have 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. Members may download movie and video selections to three eligible devices of their choice per account, allowing for multiple viewing options and family enjoyment. Additionally, select popular pay-per-view titles are available for $3.99 per movie. Vongo is currently available for broadband subscribers in the United States at http://www.vongo.com/.

Starz also announced the first in a series of planned agreements that will extend Vongo’s reach as the premier broadband entertainment service for consumers. Initial partners include Sony CONNECT and Microsoft. Sony CONNECT will make Vongo a cornerstone of its new CONNECT Video service, to be launched later this year. SEG worked with Microsoft to ensure that subscription video content from Vongo provides the highest-quality viewing experience on Windows-based PCs, laptops, and select portable media devices, as well as on a TV.

Items of notes:

Vongo has a monthly subscription model like a premium cable TV channel as opposed to a per item fee like Apple’s iTunes music and video store.

Starz has secured exclusive Internet distribution rights from movie studio partners for whom it currently distributes films to cable and satellite TV, and apparently Microsoft’s Windows Media digital rights management was key. Starz is also understandably taking pains to assure their current channel partners that this new channel won’t cannibalize their businesses.

Starz’s previous partner in a similar offering called Starz Ticket launched in 2004 was RealNetworks. They seem to be out in the cold – “He also noted that Starz Ticket, launched in 2004 with RealNetworks Inc., will continue as a service, but that the focus for Starz will be on Vongo. ”

A great deal of the analyst buzz seems to be about the portable device options although watching movies from any source on the small screens hasn’t really arrived yet. Mention is made of new portable video devices being announced this week, so presumably support won’t be limited to the few Portable Media Centers.

Starz’s parent company is Liberty Media Group whose CEO-elect is former Microsoft and Oracle CFO, Greg Maffei.



Filed under CES06, Conferences, Coopetition, DRM, Digital Media, Media Player, RealNetworks, Sony, Starz, Technologies

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