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TV platform migration to continue in 2006

Television content owners began the New Year with an intense drive to move their shows beyond the traditional television set to a wide array of new pay-per-program display platforms. It’s as if a la carte pricing — a controversial idea only three months ago —occurred overnight thanks to new technology.

Starz Entertainment Group last week announced a new subscription service that will allow the downloading of full-length movies, music concerts, and other video programming through a Website.

Vong, the new $9.95 a month service, combines Internet distribution with premium content viewing on computers and portable video devices.

Starz, which operates pay movie channels under the Starz and Encore brands, is owned by Liberty Media, the company controlled by cable entrepreneur, John C. Malone.

Using RealNetworks technology, Starz, since 2004, has offered a movie download service called Starz Ticket. However, that service, which will continue, does not allow the downloading of films to mobile devices. With Vongo, Starz will embrace Microsoft’s Media Player software that allows films to be viewed on portable media players.

The announcement, the New York Times reported, coincides with what is expected to be the introduction of several new low-priced portable video players at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Vongo, now available for Windows PCs only in beta form at, will eventually offer a base of about 1000 movies that can be viewed on up to three devices for the $9.95 monthly fee. A version for the Macintosh computer platform is promised soon.

Separately, the Times reported that Starz will also offer Vongo through Sony’s Connect download service. Until now, Connect has mainly sold music, but executives involved with Sony told the newspaper that the company will soon announce an expansion to video downloads as well.

Starz has thus far been unable to work out an arrangement for Vongo to run on Apple’s video iPods.

Similar video download services from Google and Yahoo were also announced at CES, in which subscribers will hook up their computers to a TV screen to watch traditional TV.

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