The Disney-backed MovieBeam service has relaunched after a long-struggle, offering the over-the-air movie service in 29 markets.
The financial equation doesn't seem to have improved with age. Subscribers are still being asked to pay a lot up front for something that is increasingly available over a range of more established, and now emerging, technologies.
Using part of the spectrum of PBS stations, the service collects movies onto a special PVR set-top, then allows subscribers to watch the movies for $1.99-$3.99 each.
The box can store up to 100 movies. The startup costs are significant. Subscribers must pay $199 for the player, antenna and remote control, plus a $29 activation fee.
The service does not rely on digital broadcast TV, instead slipping the movies into a data stream as part of conventional analog TV signals.
In a possible breakthrough for cable operators, Disney is releasing its movies via MovieBeam at the same time they hit the shelves of DVD retailers.
Currently, the “window” for cable and DBS pay-per-view and video on demand systems doesn’t start until 30-45 days after the start of the DVD window.
If Disney is giving its system favorable windows, cable and DBS executives hope they’ll get similar terms. MovieBeam markets are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland (Oregon), Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle-Tacoma, St. Louis, Tampa, and Washington.