Pioneer Spin-Off SyncTV Launches Test Of Online Video Service - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications

Pioneer Spin-Off SyncTV Launches Test Of Online Video Service

The subscription model is different than traditional cable TV in that customers have more options for buying only what they want to see.

SyncTV, a spin off of consumer electronics maker Pioneer, launched on Monday a private test of its online video service that's expected to go into public beta in January 2008.

SyncTV is the latest attempt at grabbing a piece of the growing market for online video. The use of video on the Web has exploded with the success of user-generated content sites such as YouTube, which is owned by Google.

SyncTV plans to organize its ad-supported content into channels, some of which, like cable's Showtime, will be familiar to viewers, the company said. People would subscribe to individual channels paying from $2 to $4 a month. Shows outside the subscribed channels would be available for download at an additional charge.

The subscription model is different than traditional cable TV in that customers have more options for buying only what they want to see, and not having to purchase packages of channels. Content can be downloaded to a maximum of five home devices, which could include a home computer or set-top box; or up to 10 portable devices. Initially, downloads will be to a home computer, but SyncTV expects supporting portable devices to start showing up next year.

To access the service, subscribers must first download the software, with versions available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Content is wrapped with digital rights management technology called Marlin, developed by Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, and Sony.

In supporting Marlin, SyncTV content won't be playable on Apple's iPod or iPhone, nor will it play on Microsoft's Zune portable player. The latter devices use separate DRM technology.

SyncTV said programming would be available in DVD-like "home theater quality" with Dolby surround sound. Some high-definition content would also be available. The company did not announce which shows would be available, but promised content from major channels and networks.

"This beta period will allow us to fine-tune the system and get feedback on how we can improve the user experience," John Gildred, president of SyncTV, said. "We are going to be listening carefully to what our users are saying so we can give them the service they want and need."

SyncTV is only the latest of many online video services available on the Web. Among the latest was Hulu, launched in beta in October by NBC and News Corp. The ad-supported service, which is also in testing mode, is an alternative to buying shows outright from online stores such as Apple iTunes.

Hulu carries content from NBC and Fox networks, as well as from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Sony Pictures Television, and more than 15 cable networks, including Bravo, E! Entertainment, FX, Sci-Fi Channel, and USA. Sony has licensed more than 40 TV shows to Hulu, and MGM is offering television shows and feature films.

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