Comcast Corp.'s Comcast Online Communications Inc. is
beginning a trial this week in several metropolitan Detroit markets of Media Station
Inc.'s "SelectPlay" online interactive-software service.
The trial marks Comcast's second market trial of such
a service, following its November launch of Arepa.com Inc.'s "PlayNow"
interactive offering in Union, N.J.
But for Media Station, the Comcast market trial is its
first big cable win, following other trials and deployments primarily with telcos offering
broadband Internet access using digital-subscriber-line platforms.
SelectPlay provides real-time access to a library of dozens
of interactive games and educational titles on CD-ROM, including new releases from major
The service will initially be provided free-of-charge to
Comcast Online subscribers participating in the market trial, who will eventually migrate
to standard SelectPlay subscription pricing of $9.95 per month.
"We believe that SelectPlay could be a primary vehicle
to drive a higher acceptance rate for cable-modem usage beyond straightforward Internet
access," Comcast Online senior vice president David Juliano said in a news release.
"Media Station and SelectPlay are good examples of the kind of provider and
application that can help consumers make the most of their investment in high-speed
Like Arepa.com, MediaStation has faced operator concerns
over how much bandwidth its services would gobble up as users accessed software titles.
Now, the company said that aspect is addressed by the proprietary "Bandwidth
Manager" feature of SelectPlay, which determines both the bandwidth required for a
specific title and the available network capacity.
If enough bandwidth is not available for a subscriber to
use a title in real time at the moment they want it, they can still order the title and
have it downloaded to their computer for storage and later playback. Key components of the
titles are stored at their service provider's server, so subscribers can play their
titles even during peak-usage periods, when bandwidth might be constrained, the company
SelectPlay's other cornerstone technology is
"MediaRemote," which delivers a virtual-device driver to the subscriber's
computer, enabling them to use the CD-ROM titles stored on their broadband-service
MediaStation's initial commercial service launches
occurred in October, with Sprint Corp.'s DSL service in Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas,
followed by a November launch in Charlottesville, Va.
Sprint eventually plans to offer DSL service to 40 percent
of its 7.9 million local-access lines, potentially representing a huge market for
MediaStation with that particular partner.
U S West has also been testing SelectPlay for deployment to
its multimedia DSL markets.