Disney plans significant datacasting initiative

This fall, the Walt Disney Company will give over-the-air datacasting its make or break opportunity.

Disney has announced it will launch a new video-on-demand (VOD) service called MovieBeam in Salt Lake City and two other yet-to-be-determined markets. Subscribers will be able to store up to 100 DVD-quality feature films at a time, and play the films using TiVo-like interactive controls. Users are expected to be able to add about ten new film titles for viewing each week.

Moviebeam’s pricing for video movies is expected to be comparable to video store rental prices. Films will be distributed to home viewers over a stream of data within the digital broadcast stream from affiliated television stations.

Many analysts think the venture is a long shot, because most television viewers already subscribe to cable systems with video-on-demand capability. "Unlike cable video-on-demand, where the customer gets VOD from his or her cable operator and the studios get paid a wholesale fee, this is a direct-to-consumer retail service where the consumer builds a relationship with us," said Peter E. Murphy, Walt Disney's chief strategic officer.

Disney has not yet revealed which datacast technology it will use for the MovieBeam service. However, the Disney company is an investor in Dotcast, a private datacasting company based in the Silicon Valley. Mum on any deal with Disney, Dotcast has previously claimed to be building a high-speed wireless network capable of delivering more than 200 billion bytes of digital content “to virtually every consumer and business in the United States.”

Dotcast's patented and FCC-approved technology uses both analog and digital broadcast technology. It can use a signal from an analog television broadcast transmitter and add a digital data stream of up to 4.5Mbps. Dotcast has argued that analog signals penetrate walls better than digital signals, making it unnecessary to use special antennas to receive signals.

For more information visit www.disney.com.

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