NorthPoint Communications Inc. announced a strategic
initiative last week called "Blast" designed to encourage content providers to
hasten the development of broadband content for its digital-subscriber-line service.
Along with its content partners, NorthPoint will conduct
field tests on both technological advances and the consumer response to different kinds of
broadband content, such as streaming video-on-demand, CD-ROM software downloads and
broadband Web sites.
"Ultimately, NorthPoint sees the broadband-access
market converging with broadband content and applications," senior project manager
for content Greg Stone said. "The market will mature to the point where consumers
expect to purchase both access and services at the same time."
In today's market, interest in broadband services has
come from early adopters who are more interested in speed for its own sake and in the
always-on connection than in specific broadband content, Jupiter Communications senior
analyst Joe Laszlo said. But he believes there's a need for new content to drive
enough demand for broadband to reach a mass market.
Burlingame, Calif.-based ClearBand agreed last Tuesday to
test its full-screen streaming-video service with NorthPoint.
ClearBand chief operating officer Joe Hawayek said his
company gives broadband Internet-service providers a way to differentiate themselves from
their competitors with unique content that shows off the power of broadband.
The company plans to specialize in streaming live sports
and special events. ClearBand could give broadband providers the opportunity to carve out
content niches targeted toward local audiences, such as local schools' sporting
New York-based On2.com Inc. is also in technical trials
with NorthPoint for its "On2Movies" full-motion video-entertainment service.
"We've aggregated content through direct
relationships with movie studios" and Hollywood stars to bring behind-the-scenes
Hollywood news to broadband subscribers, On2.com CEO Dan Miller said.
While On2.com will market the broadband site with online
and print advertising of its own, the company, like other content providers, also looks
for marketing support from its broadband ISPs.
Miller predicted that VOD could become a killer application
While media-on-demand -- including music, movies or
television shows -- would require cooperation from the studios involved, Miller believes
the media will be "pulled and pushed" into online relationships even faster than
they might feel comfortable with just in an attempt to keep up with the fast-changing
Other content and technology companies working on
NorthPoint's Blast initiative include Akamai Technologies Inc., CoolCast, Digital
Island Inc., Equinix Inc., iBEAM Broadcasting Corp., Into Networks Inc., Media Station
Inc., Microsoft Corp. and ZDTV.
"What we want to do is take the lead in demonstrating
to the content community how they can create business models for broadband," Stone
The Blast tests will provide technical and marketing
feedback to NorthPoint's early partners, Stone said, adding, "We hope that by
enabling their success, we'll participate in some small way in the revenue streams
NorthPoint does not expect its content providers to sign
exclusive broadband relationships, Stone said, at least not initially. Nor does he expect
broadband to replace cable and broadcast in the delivery of television.
"You'll continue to get video over television as
long as you can continue to aggregate audiences for advertisers," he added.
"That's likely to happen for a long time."
In other DSL news last week, SBC Communications Inc.'s
SBC Internet Services said it will drop the cost of its basic DSL service to $39.95 per
month, and it will waive the equipment and installation costs for a promotional period.
"SBC's new pricing for its DSL service certainly
makes it more competitive with cable-modem service," Laszlo said. But ultimately, he
added, "It really will be more than just price that determines a company's
success in the broadband field."
Doug Seserman, senior vice president of marketing for
AT&T Broadband & Internet Services, said, "Competition is good. It brings
better prices for consumers, and it means we all have to be better at our jobs."