Monday, February 13, 2006

MovieBeam Launches with HD Content, Future Broadband Connectivity

MovieBeam, a movies-on-demand service backed The Walt Disney Company, Cisco Systems, Intel and leading venture capital firms, launched its service in 29 major metropolitan areas across the U.S., including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, reaching nearly half of all U.S. households.

The MovieBeam movies-on-demand service provides instant access to a library of protected content stored on a set-top box with a hard drive. New content is delivered via MovieBeam's exclusive, low-cost over-the-air datacasting technology. There are always 100 movies immediately available, with up to 10 new titles automatically delivered digitally each week -- including select movies in high definition (HD).

The MovieBeam player features a 160 GB hard drive and a 200 MHz central processing unit (CPU). The player easily connects to virtually any television set, with video connection ports including HDMI, component, S-video, composite and audio connection ports including digital coaxial, SP/DIF, HDMI and left/right stereo audio. MovieBeam supports advanced audio and video formats, including Windows Media 9/VC-1 and Dolby Digital 5.1.

With this flexible platform and PC-compatible digital movie files, the MovieBeam service can in the future be extended to other devices. As part of Intel's investment, the two companies are collaborating to develop a USB peripheral that will, in the future, bring the MovieBeam service to other devices.

The player also features Ethernet and USB 2.0 ports, which will enable broadband connectivity later this year, giving MovieBeam the ability to add even more features and content to the service. The player is co-branded with Linksys, a division of Cisco Systems and a leader in home networking devices, as part of Cisco's investment in MovieBeam. The two companies intend to explore future joint development opportunities.

Through a long-term agreement with National Datacast (and its nationwide network of PBS stations), MovieBeam's exclusive over-the-air datacasting technology provides a low-cost content distribution solution and enables the efficient, secure and simultaneous delivery of hundreds of digital movie files to millions of customers' homes across the country. The MovieBeam datacasting signal rides on top of the existing PBS broadcasting infrastructure and National Datacast's 15 years of experience provides MovieBeam with a distribution solution including network coordination, management and monitoring.

Key features of the new MovieBeam offering include:

  • Every new release and select popular favorites from virtually every major Hollywood studio, with 100 movies always instantly available and up to 10 new titles automatically delivered each week

  • Access to high-definition movies -- with specially selected titles in native HD format and an HDMI connection that up-converts standard-definition content when connected to an HD TV

  • Content rights, including select titles from a major studio day-and-date with DVD release

  • Full playback functionality, with familiar controls such as Pause, Stop, Fast-forward and Rewind

  • Intuitive user interface that sorts movies by title, genre, actor/director and rating

  • Free full-length theatrical trailers for every movie available for rental

  • Pay-as-you-go model, with no subscription fees and no annual contracts

  • Simple set-up, requiring no professional installation or special equipment

  • Personalized spending limits and parental controls

The MovieBeam System will be sold by major national consumer electronics retailers including Best Buy, CompUSA and Sears, as well as regional and independent retailers in the markets in which the service is available.

The advertised price of the MovieBeam System is $199.99 after an introductory rebate of $50. There is a one-time service activation fee of $29.99. Movie-rental prices are $3.99 for new release titles and $1.99 for library titles -- with a $1 premium for HD movies. Each rental covers a 24-hour viewing period during which customers can watch a movie as many times as they like, with full video playback functionality. There are no annual contracts or monthly subscription fees.

See also