MovieBeam Tries Again

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Cable operators, direct-broadcast satellite providers and video-rental stores in 29 states have a new competitor in The Walt Disney Co.’s MovieBeam, which launched Feb. 14 in 29 major markets, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Using Public Broadcasting System transmitters to deliver movies to $199 set-tops, Movie- Beam will offer films on the same day they’re released on DVD — something cable operators have attempted to persuade studios for years to allow them to do.

Disney mothballed MovieBeam in April, but then recently spun off the business and recruited investors Cisco Systems Inc. and Intel Corp.

Best Buy Co. Inc., CompUSA and Sears, Roebuck & Co. are selling the MovieBeam box, which comes with 100 movies on the hard drive, but will offer just 10 new titles each week.

New releases cost $3.99, while library titles go for $1.99.

The move should make Disney’s talks for new cable-carriage deals with Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable interesting. Disney president Bob Iger told analysts Feb. 6 that the talks were yielding debate on “the role of the distributor versus the role of the programmer.”

MovieBeam is also reportedly looking at using the Internet to download movies.

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