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September 30, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

When it was announced at the beginning of this year, the Intertainer service from Santa Monica, California-based start up Intertainer Inc was hailed as the first on-demand programming service aiming to deliver content to home PCs over broadband networks such as ADSL and digital cable. The company’s service tries to provide many of the pieces, including programming, network management, set-top technology and a customer interface. Intertainer Inc was founded in 1996 and ran its first trials over Pacific Bell’s Fast Trak ADSL systems in Northern California. The company has won investments from cable company Comcast Corp, Intel Corp, NBC Corp, Sony Corp and US West. It has partnered with another start-up, San Francisco-based Veon Inc (formerly Ephyx Technologies) to jointly develop interactive video, and agreed to build a virtual store with bookseller Barnes & Noble. Currently in beta, the Intertainer service broadcasts video at the slightly sluggish MPEG-1 (Motion Picture Experts Group) standard to any Pentium PC. It has built up an impressive content bank, including movies, TV programs and information services. The video-on-demand package will show movies from MGM, Warner Bros, Universal and 20th Century Fox. TV programming is sourced from National Geographic and the US’s Public Broadcasting Service, among others. And an online shopping mall comes from American Express. Users will be able to access 500 hours of cached programming, stored on Intertainer’s Unix-based media servers, and the company plans to update a quarter of its programming mix every month. Intertainer will not charge a monthly fee to those consumers already paying $40 to $50 a month for cable or ADSL access. However, a pay-per-view price of $3.95 is planned for first-run movies, with $1.95 to $2.95 being charged for library films. Hour-long TV shows will be $1. We’re charging the cable and telecoms operations a per-month, per-person fee that is fairly low, says Intertainer chairman Jonathan Taplin. US West wants to deploy the service on its ADSL network, and Comcast has also agreed to offer it over cable modem. All that needs to be determined is if PC users will want to watch sub-broadcast quality video on a computer monitor. Taplin, clearly thinks they will, and as Bob Dylan’s former tour manager, he should know a thing or two about what kind of entertainment sells. Computer Business Review.

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