Monday, April 27, 2009

Hollywood and ISPs team up to deliver video over the Internet

DVD, DVR and VOD are old school. Now there's ZillionTV. The company, backed by several major Hollywood studios, is an ad-supported video-on-demand system in which commercials are tailored to viewers, who can't fast-forward through them.

ZillionTV enables viewers to choose the categories of advertising that are most interesting to them, and commercials fitting the bill are inserted into TV shows and movies that are streamed via broadband onto TV screens.

Content comes from Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, NBC Universal, 20th Century Fox Television and Disney, all of which are invested in this startup. Forty other partners also supply content, and discussions are under way with Viacom and CBS. ZillionTV is promising 15,000 movie and TV titles by the end of 2009, when such TV shows as 30 Rock and Smallville and movies like The Dark Knight will be available on demand.

The system features a rewards program: The more commercials watched, the more points earned. Users wishing to avoid the ads can buy or rent content in a way similar to iTunes and Apple TV.

ZillionTV, however, is for streaming only. Purchased content is stored via Internet "lockers," not on a hard drive.

ZillionTV hopes to do for the set-top box market what Hulu has done for the PC. If you're like a lot of us, you're trying to keep up with the technology.

Hulu, if you're not familiar with it, is an online video service that offers hit TV shows, movies and clips at and other online destination sites — all for free. The service is available only in the U.S.

Hulu brings together a large selection of videos from more than 130 content providers, including FOX, NBC Universal, MGM, Sony Pictures Television, and Warner Bros. Users can choose from more than 1000 current prime-time TV hits such as The Simpsons, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and The Office the morning after they air; classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The A Team; movies like Men in Black and The Karate Kid; and clips from popular shows of the past, such as Friends.

The backers of ZillionTV insist that they're offering a unique product. Once the service is operational, we'll get the opportunity to compare.

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