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THE FUSE: Blockbuster Makin' Moves, Microsoft Continues to Advance on RealNetworks, AOLTV, and Akama

Blockbuster Makin' Moves, Microsoft Continues to Advance on RealNetworks, AOLTV, and Akamai Streams

by Tim LaTorre/EB Insider


>> Blockbuster Makes Another Move Into Next-Gen Entertainment with AtomFilms Agreement

In a continuing effort to bridge their
dominance from the home video rental market into the
next-generation entertainment field, Blockbuster announced
that it has entered into an agreement with next-gen darling Atom Films
to syndicate short-form content from a co-branded section of
blockbuster.com for two years beginning this spring. Last month
the Viacom subsidiary announced a slate of deals: a video-on-demand
alliance with personal TV company TiVo, a strategic alliance with
AOL to create broadband content and delivery services, and an agreement
with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. to develop a business model for
delivering their films online. The partnership, which constitutes
an under $10 million investment in Atom Films, also includes
streaming related technology. Reflecting on her company's new
direction, blockbuster.com president Shellye Archambeau stated,
"this announcement is an exciting next step for Blockbuster as we
continue to pursue avenues for our customers to receive quality,
in-home entertainment through electronic delivery."





>> Microsoft Continues Advance on RealNetworks by Offering Pay-per-view Technology

In a battle that continues to heat up, software giant Microsoft
announced last week the release of new product to that allows
companies to sell pay-per-view and pay-per-download content via
the Internet. The Digital Broadcast Manager is Microsoft's newest
play in their effort to replace RealNetworks' technology as the
leading digital media standard in favor of their own Windows Media
technology. Developed over the past several years in cooperation
with House of Blues Inc., and e-media, Showtime Boxing's Web
broadcaster, Digital Broadcast Manager features easy digital media
conversion, customer authentication and authorization, a report
manager that tracks customer and product sales trends, and digital
media storefront management. While digital media ecommerce is new
to Microsoft's offerings, competitor RealNetworks has offered
pay-per-view services since they released Real Server 5 way back
in 1997. Noting the late entry, RealNetworks product manager
stated in a recent Industry Standard article, "this is another
example of Microsoft trying to keep up with the market leaders,
but remaining several generations behind".





>> AOL Sneaks AOL TV

Going head-to-head with Microsoft's WebTV service, this week
America Online unveiled their much-ballyhooed interactive TV
project, AOLTV, to members of Wall Street's elite. The new service
will center around a set-top box from Phillips Electronics which will
be available in stores and promoted through the AOL service this
summer. In his report released on the new project, Merrill Lynch
analyst Henry Blodget stated that AOL TV will be "a profoundly
important next step in the development of the medium and AOL."
Commenting on the pricing structure, Blodget speculated that
"the user will likely be able to buy the box for $199-$399 and
then pay a $5-$10 monthly fee in addition to the regular AOL
subscription fee, or just pay a higher monthly subscription fee
and get the box for free". AOL TV will feature an electronic
programming guide, similar to the one offered by DirecTV, that
allows users to change channels by clicking on words and graphics
instead of clicking through channels and also renumbers channels
into groups defined by subject matter (i.e. sports, news, etc.).
Users will also be able to watch TV while using the interactive
elements they are used to on their PCs such as instant messaging,
buddy lists, chat, email and a calendar. These new elements will
either appear in a translucent form or augment the size of the
television image while they are being used. The new service will
also allow for direct interaction with programming. According to
Blodget's report, "on Larry King, for example, users might be
asked to vote on a particular political issue while the guest is
being interviewed".





>> Akamai Gets Serious about Streaming

On the delivery side of the next-gen industry, Akamai Technologies
has agreed to acquire streaming media piorneer InterVU in a deal
estimated to be worth $2.8 billion. The addition of InterVU will
increase Akamai's server space to more than 3,000 in 100 networks
across 40 countries. While Akamai has made some advance into the
streaming world with Apple's Quicktime TV, the acquisition increases
their services to include the streaming of Microsoft Media and
RealNetworks formats. Both companies specialize in the dependable,
high-performance delivery of rich Web content by placing servers
in Internet service providers networks, reducing Net congestion by
bringing the source closer to the inquiry. Last month, Akamai
also bought Webcasting toolkit and service company, Network24
Communications
.




[EB INSIDER is a free weekly email service exclusively devoted to
the burgeoning next-generation entertainment industry. Check out
this week's feature profile: "MICROCAST: the new Internet Broadcast
Standard?
" at http://www.ebinsider.com.]

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