Starz’s Vongo Trial Over

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With a six-month trial period complete and a few key tweaks made to its storefront Web page (www.vongo.com), Vongo is ready to go for gold in the Internet video-download competition.

The Starz Entertainment Group LLC-backed video-download service moved from beta-test to full “gold” online service earlier this week, even as it expands its 1,600-title video-content library beyond just movies to include more sports and music content.

With early feedback indicating that many customers are watching the Vongo content on their TVs, the real work ahead might be convincing cable distributors that Vongo is a potential content asset, rather than a threat to their video-on-demand offerings.

For $9.99 monthly, broadband Internet customers gain access to unlimited video downloads they can view for up to 24 hours, plus a live stream of the Starz movie channel.

Vongo also added a premium a pay-per-view option, so that a user can buy a first-run movie for $3.99 whether they are a Vongo subscriber or not.

A big part of the programmer’s marketing strategy lies in striking deals to distribute Vongo through cable operators’ high-speed-Internet services. Those deals haven’t happened. In fact, Vongo’s first service-provider partner is AT&T Inc., which inked a deal earlier this spring to co-market Vongo to its 8 million digital-subscriber-line customers.

Starz is in talks with Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc., but the negotiations are slower than anticipated, senior vice president of advanced services Robert Greene said.

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