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02.20.2006
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
New MovieBeam video service uses PBS spectrum

Broadcast datacasting will get a major new test with the national launch of Moviebeam, the new video-on-demand service recently launched in 29 major U.S. markets.

With new financial backing from Cisco Systems and Intel, Moviebeam — originally launched in three test markets by Disney — uses television broadcast spectrum to send movies to a hard drive in the Moviebeam set-top box.

Through a long-term agreement with National Datacast (and its nationwide network of PBS stations), MovieBeam’s over-the-air datacasting technology provides a content distribution system that enables the simultaneous delivery of hundreds of digital movie files to millions of customers’ homes across the country. The MovieBeam signal rides on top of the existing PBS broadcasting infrastructure. National Datacast provides MovieBeam with network coordination, management and monitoring.

MovieBeam is now available in 29 metropolitan across the U.S. including, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland and Dallas.

The set-top box, which comes loaded with 100 films, is priced at $199 after a $50 rebate. After a $29 set-up fee, most new standard-definition releases will cost $3.99. High-definition features will be priced at $4.99, while back-catalog films will be priced at $1.99.

About 10 of the 100 movies stored on the drive will be replaced each week through data sent over the wireless connection. The data is received on a small indoor antenna. The set-top box also must be hooked to a telephone line for billing data.

Former parent company Disney is breaking with tradition to allow movies to be shown on the same day they’re released on DVD. Disney and Warner Bros. Entertainment will also provide high-definition versions of some films to the service, for viewers with HDMI connections on their displays. Most of the major studios are providing content.

Once the movies are stored on the device, customers can order them with a click of the remote control, and they will be immediately viewable for a period of 24 hours.

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