Starz Encore Group and Real Networks announced a plan at Western ’02 to launch a broadband-exclusive subscription-based movie business the following spring. At long last, their film-streaming dream has arrived. The curtain rises today on Starz! Ticket, an all-you-can-eat service with DVR functionality for downloads of any or all of 100 Starz! movies with three viewing licenses PER title. The cost: $12.95/month. That means up to 3 PCs or Web-connected portable media devices can download "Finding Nemo." For example, a customer could do 2 downloads on home PCs and 1 on a laptop (from http://movies.real.com or starz.com) and then view Nemo on a TV via an S-video cable link. There’s no extra fee each time a title is downloaded, and its licenses are renewable on an unlimited basis within each month of subscription and/or rights window of the title on Starz! Ticket. Rival Movielink has 24-hr download windows. Ticket’s 100 titles are available in the same window as Starz on Demand, with 25% of its titles refreshed weekly, and parental controls and Real’s Helix DRM handling security duties. All new Starz! titles and about 88% of its classic library will be available. The service works only for cable-modem or DSL connections of at least 600 kbps. It’s viewable in full-screen or in a smaller window using RealPlayer 10 software. As if the whole thing isn’t irksome to cable operators, Ticket will also stream a live version of the Starz! linear channel; it’s the 1st premium service available simultaneously over broadband. Starz svp, advanced services Bob Greene admits the news that Starz! was going with this model (instead of say, a co-branded broadband service with MSOs or making it a value-add for Starz cable subs) initially was upsetting to cable ops. "They started each meeting unhappy and left the room happy" because it will drive broadband penetration, he claims. Ops likely will be happier once they strike a value-added deal for their broadband subscribers, just as Real SuperPass subs only pay an incremental $8/month for the service (just as Cox and Cablevision may have done, PaidContent.org says; Starz did not confirm that;). Greene’s eyeing ways to appease MSOs, such as directing Ticket-holders to local cable operators to encourage subscriptions to broadband, Starz linear and on demand services. (Shirley Brady)

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