VCinema Eyes Advanced Box


T here’s a new player offering up video content over broadband: VCinema Inc. plans to build a next-generation set-top including a DVD/CD player, a DVR and a high-speed broadband connection to download content directly from the Internet.

The plan is for consumers to buy the box, hook it up to their TVs, and get a combination of free content — plus have access to various subscription content packages.

The company hasn’t announced who will manufacture the device or exactly what content it has under contract, but Adam Zeitsiff, VCinema CEO, said he has licensed an unnamed European manufacturer to build the set-top using an Intel reference design that will sport a 200 gigabit hard drive. The retail price, he hopes, will be in the $300 range.

Additionally, Zeitsiff said talks have begun with the major Hollywood studios and TV networks, with those parties undertaking technical reviews of VCinema’s product.

Zeitsiff plans on assembling a programming mix that will have broad appeal to the typical American family and consumer.

Product will include films, children’s programs, sporting events and other entertainment fare, he said.

The company envisions consumers paying a “small monthly fee,” probably in the $10-per-month range, and receiving a DVR guide, basic news and weather, plus a mix of music programming.

Monthly subscription packages would be offered beyond that.

A growing list of subscription content sites are already pitching broadband consumers, ranging from CNN and ABC News to packages from the professional sports leagues to content assembled by Real Networks to films from Movielink and CinemaNow.

VCinema plans to use the H.264 advanced video compression algorithm, saving bandwidth and providing what it says will be a high-quality picture. He said VCinema is looking at two to three companies to supply the compression technology.

The company also said it has developed its own digital rights management system to protect content. “The quality is impeccable,” Zeitsiff said.

The inhouse-developed DRM “is inherently secure,” he added. “It has a variety of different redundancies. It’s a closed conditional-access environment. The set-top is fully locked down. We use a client-server technology.”

The company plans to use Ethernet connections to plug broadband access devices, like cable or DSL modems, into its set-top. The content will be designed to view on a TV screen, he said, and the box should be able to handle MPEG 2, MPEG 4, Real Networks and Windows Media 9 formats.