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Instant Media Sends HD Via Web

5/09/2006 09:02:00 AM Eastern

Palo Alto, Calif. – Instant Media (IM), a privately held startup focusing on delivery of high-definition video programming over the Internet, launched its first two “channels” today offering consumers free access to two programs in 720p resolution.

The two channels – BuyTV and Rocketboom – are offered under free subscriptions to broadband Windows XP-based PC users through Instant Media’s video portal at www.im.com.

The shows were produced by IM content partners and are being distributed over the Internet using IM software and services.

Instant Media was formed two years ago and has engaged “a team of engineers to develop an integrated platform that pulls together all of the elements of a cached media publishing solution, rather than a streaming media solution,” IM CEO Andy Leak told TWICE.

He explained that streaming solutions don’t work well with HDTV programming because streamed content tends to be slow, requires small viewing windows and produces limited resolution to work effectively.

The IM approach uses the Internet High Definition (IHD) standard to compress content that can be downloaded at 1280-by-720p pixel resolution onto a PC’s desktop.

Once a subscriber registers for a program, which IM calls “a channel” since the programs are automatically updated on a recurring basis, the most recent program file is automatically downloaded to the PC “in the background,” Leak said. As new shows are produced and published, they are automatically downloaded to a user’s desktop.

The software uses a DVR-like disk management system to ensure that hard disks never overflow, the company said.

Using the IHD system, one hour of HD programming content requires 1GB of storage capacity on a PC’s hard drive. Programs can be downloaded using any broadband connection from average DSL to the fastest high speed connections, Leak said.

Digital rights management is controlled using Windows DRM, giving IM’s content partners the flexibility to control playback or copyrights, in any manner they require, Leak said.

“We anticipate most users will view this content on televisions connected to computers or on flat-screen televisions that have computer capabilities built into them,” said Leak. He added that viewers will likely start out watching shows on their PC monitors before learning to connect their computers to an HDTV.

The initial shows, or “channels” as IM calls them, include BuyTV, which is a 30 minute weekly program created by online retailer Buy.com. The program focuses on technology reviews and product features, and offers an interactive component that will enable viewers to read supplemental text content about the TV personalities or topics of discussion. Running text and graphics appears in a pop up window adjacent to the video frame.

The popup side frame also includes interactive e-commerce capability, allowing viewers to purchase products directly from Buy.com through the program.

The other show, called “Rocketboom,” is a daily five-minute video cast offering a comical commentary on news events and culture.

“In addition to that we have a fairly extensive catalog of standard definition to low-definition armature and professionally produced video programs and audio casts. But the focus of Instant Media going forward will be on the high definition side of things,” said Leak.

Leak said IM is working on a number of additional content partnerships, which will be announced soon. Much of the service’s fare will include special interest subject matter, but IM expects to eventually offer a full HD cable-TV like service using IM’s cache downloading technology.

That element of the service will evolve as extra-large capacity hard drives become more prevalent, Leak said.

Programs generate revenue either through direct interactive purchases, through advertising edited into the program, or both. The IM service will also offer some premium content on a pay per view or paid subscription basis, Leak said. However, the emphasis of the service will be to offer advertising-supported video content for free to viewers, he added.

Starting on May 15th, IM will also launch a cable television advertising campaign, to get the word out about the service, said Leak. The campaign will target trendier programming, including some MTV shows, Leak said.

The company is also looking to work on cross-promotional deals with leading CE and PC vendors, said Leak, including the possibility of pre-installing IM software on PCs as an added value to purchasers.