Friday, March 17, 2006

MovieBeam: Blockbuster's New Release Section in a Box?

In 2003, Disney announced a service called MovieBeam, a video-on-demand system aimed squarely at services like Netflix and TiVo. In early 2005 the service was taken offline, but has recently received a second life with additional backing by Cisco Systems, and Intel.

The MovieBean device comes preloaded with 100 movies. 100 movies is not really alot if one considers the studios which are backing the product. I wouldn't expect to see Star Wars or Harry Potter any time soon. Once a movie is on the device a customer can order it with the remote control and is viewable for only 24 hours. New releases will cost $3.99 while back-catalog costing $1.99. High-definition films will cost an extra dollar.

Each week, up to 10 new movies Movies replace older titles. As new movies are automatically downloaded, older movies are automatically deleted to keep the number at a constant 100. The limited selection of movies may keep interest limited to those who frequent Blockbuster's new release section.

MovieBeam currently uses spare television broadcast bandwidth, usually that of a local PBS station, to send data to the 160mb hard drive in the set-top MB2160 boxes, co-branded with Cisco's Linksys division. An Internet version is in the works. The MovieBeam set-top box is priced at $200 after a $50 introductory rebate. The antenna-based setup reduces networking setup headaches and broadband download speed limitations, it also limits the availability of the product to those areas above where MovieBeam-compatible transmitters are in place.

Besides the initial hardware cost there is a one time activation fee of $29.99. There are no monthly charges, only the cost of the movies. While the lack of a subscription fee is always a plus, paying up to $5 if it's in HD seems steep when limited to a 24-hour viewing window.

Only about 10 percent if the movies offered are available in native HD format. The player does features an HDMI connection that supports up-conversion from standard-definition content to high-definition output. A typical high-quality DVD movie file occupies about 8GB, but according to MovieBeam its file sizes are 1-1.5GB for standard-def and 5GB for high-def movies. Even with MovieBeam's superior Windows Media 9 compression, that's pretty small for an HD movie, and isn't a good sign for having a satisfying HD experience. The movies they have available via HD are not the ones that would benefit from an enhanced viewing experience.

The MovieBeam service is currently available in 29 metropolitan areas including Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland (Oregon), Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle-Tacoma, St. Louis, Tampa and Washington D.C. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

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