Starz Gets Real With Broadband SVOD


Anaheim, Calif.- Beginning next spring, Starz Encore Group and Real Networks Inc. will offer a broadband-based online subscription video-on-demand service.

Only those consumers who already subscribe to the Starz Super Pak premium service will be able to buy movies online, and only if they connect to the Internet through a cable modem or digital-subscriber-line platform.

Customers who sign up for RNI's "SuperPass" premium online-content service, which starts at $9.95, will be offered "Starz on Demand on RealOne" as an add-on, but SuperPass is not a prerequisite to receive the Starz service.

Starz on Demand will be priced competitively with cable SVOD -- around $10 per month, and possibly $2 cheaper if taken with SuperPass -- but specific pricing will not be announced until closer to the service's launch.

The venture was announced at the Western Show here last Wednesday.

Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser said his company is still developing a
'consumer-friendly interface' that will authenticate Starz subscribers. Real has
not yet set a price for SuperPak content and Glaser declined to discuss revenue

A monthly purchase will give subscribers access to a 100-film library.
Consumers will get advance notice of available content, which will allow them to
order films for download during the morning hours.

Films will utilize RealVideo 9, the RealNetworks Media Commerce Suite for
security and the RealOne Subscriber Management Platform for order entry and

Glaser said the venture would offer cable operators who have not upgraded
their networks a way to offer SVOD by using cable modems.

Asked why the online venture was not undertaken in conjunction with AOL Time
Warner Inc.'s Road Runner service or other cable high-speed data platforms,
Starz Encore Group chairman and CEO John Sie quipped, 'I like Rob.'

But then Sie alluded to the financial woes engulfing several MSOs, noting,
'With all their problems, I'd never get a deal done.'

The Starz/Real product is similar to the recently launched Movielink, an
Internet VOD venture backed by the major movie studios that also uses Real's
Media Commerce suite. That venture is available to all consumers, but sells
films on a per-title basis for 24-hour viewing windows.

Sie said he believes the online service will help boost demand for high-speed
data connections. It will help cable take a portion of the estimated $28 a month
the top quartile of Starz' customers spends to rent videos each month, he said.

Currently, Real has 850,000 premium subscribers. Some 15 million cable homes
subscribe to Starz Super Pak, but company officials could not say how many of
those homes also have a high-speed connection.

In addition to watching the films on PCs, Starz outlined ways that consumers
could network a PC with a video card to a home TV set. Hardware that allows for
such content sharing would cost subscribers an estimated $40 to $200, in
addition to subscriptions.