Broadband video-on-demand to PCs moved one step closer to reality last week with the announcement that Intertainer Inc.'s VOD service will stream full-motion movies and TV programs to cable-modem and digital-subscriber-line users through Akamai Technologies Inc.'s existing national "Free-Flow" server network.
The Intertainer-Akamai deal marks the first time on-demand streaming video will be distributed to the "last mile" on a private carrier network. The deal also represents the first major effort for streaming-media ventures to go beyond video clips and movie trailers and into full-length programming.
Intertainer is currently deployed on Qwest Communications International Inc.'s (formerly U S West) DSL platform in Denver, and it is preparing to roll out on Verizon Communications'network in several Eastern U.S. markets.
The Akamai deal allows Intertainer to go national without additional network construction, although more servers will be added as the subscriber base grows.
"Our core competency is aggregating content," Intertainer CEO Jonathan Taplin said. "And we really did not want the additional job of running the network carrying our content. We see Akamai as the 'best-of-breed'in delivering digital content to the edge of the network with their existing fiber backbone and high-capacity servers."
Taplin noted that Intertainer, a Web-based VOD service, secured licensing rights to more than 50,000 hours of films, music concerts and television shows from more than 60 providers, including several Hollywood studios.
About the only big studio not contributing video content to Intertainer is Paramount Pictures, which owns Blockbuster Inc. Blockbuster is working with Enron Corp. on its own Web-based VOD service.
Akamai delivers streamed Internet content from more than 4,200 servers colocated in 50 countries, connected to 225 telecommunications networks serving more than 2,100 commercial clients, including Intertainer.
Critical to the success of the venture, Taplin said, is the protection of the intellectual-property rights of the content creators, accomplished through the rights and asset-management software built into the Microsoft Corp. "Windows Media Player" being deployed as part of the broadband service.
"In the wake of Napster [Inc.], he added, "we must be able to guarantee that our content providers are properly compensated if we want them to keep providing quality programming for Intertainer's customers."