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Seven leads movie download race
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Seven leads movie download race - 09-March-2009, 14:54

THE Seven Media Group has found a way for people to download and watch as many movies as they like on their televisions without incurring penalties for exceeding their broadband download limits.
Seven will take on Telstra and other internet service providers at their own game by selling a broadband internet connection with its TiVo digital set-top box from next month.

The broadband service -- which turns TiVo into an internet service provider -- will be launched along with a movie library of more than 100 titles that customers will be able to download to their TiVo box.

TiVo licensee Hybrid Television Services has partnered with Adelaide ISP Internode to offer the service, which will provide unmetered video downloads.

The move bypasses Seven's wireless broadband arm Unwired, which it acquired for $127 million in 2007, and internet voice provider Engin. "They're not ready for us," Hybrid TV chief executive Robbee Minicola said.

TiVo and Internode are expected to charge customers between $79 and $99 a month for a TiVo set-top box and a broadband internet connection on a two-year contract.

The bundled service is being pitched as a competitor to pay-TV services like Foxtel, which charges at least $50 a month for a basic service with an iQ set-top box, as well as high-speed broadband providers. At best, TiVo is believed to be breaking even on the deal.

Ms Minicola said TiVo was part of Seven's bid to "future-proof" TV from the increasing threats of peer-to-peer pirate internet downloads. The service will provide access to new digital FTA TV channels to be launched in the next year, and enable digital recording of TV shows and fast-forwarding through ads.

It will provide a wireless broadband internet connection to the TiVo and the home computer, and allow downloads and watching of movies on TV without paying download penalties.

"We're not here to make money on the box. We're here to get the customer to get the box," Ms Minicola said.

The service should reduce the growth of illegal downloads of TV shows, she said.

"One in three broadband customers is a pirate and half of all BitTorrent downloads are TV shows," she said. "We have to think about the immediacy, the instant gratification -- of how to get the consumer what they want when they want it."

Internode, a small service provider with about 150,000 broadband customers nationally, will begin cross-selling TiVo to its customers next month.

"No broadband provider can really expect to live without a content play in the future and this is ours," Internode managing director Simon Hackett said.

TiVo will provide some movie downloads for free, supported by ads, but most will be offered on a pay-per-view basis.

"When people start downloading movies that they're paying for, they're not going to be paying twice" by incurring extra broadband download charges, he said.

The TiVo movie library deal with Franchise Entertainment Group -- operator of the Blockbuster and VideoEzy chains -- gives consumers access to movies from six studios, as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, which is thought to be a world-first for video-on-demand.

Five older movies will be free to download if the customer watches a sponsor's advertisement to get the code that unlocks that content.

The pay-per-view content will be include recent releases similar to those offered on Foxtel's pay-per-view Box Office service.

It is understood Seven will start a marketing blitz for the TiVo internet service and expanded movie library on March 24.

Hybrid TV's decision to sell its own broadband service rather than wait for other ISPs to agree to offer unmetered downloads means it will beat bigger rivals such as Telstra to the punch by several months.

The telco was expected to launch an internet-connected TV set-top box delivering unmetered access to BigPond Media content before March after a non-compete agreement with Foxtel (of which it owns 50 per cent) expired last year.

"We can't wait for Australian ISPs to decide to unmeter our content," Ms Minicola said.

She may still partner with other ISPs down the track.

Also, news broke last week that Seven had sold a third of TiVo to New Zealand broadcaster TVNZ for $15 million.

Ms Minicola would not confirm the news, but TiVo is believed to also have the option of partnering with others to launch TiVo in other Asia-Pacific regions. TiVo expects to follow the internet service and expanded movie library launch with digital radio, to be offered with radio group DMG.

A catch-up television service, beginning with local Seven Network shows, to which it has the rights, will launch by May or June.

The ABC, which has its own iView internet catch-up TV platform, has also indicated willingness to explore making its programs available via a TiVo catch-up service. Other promised TiVo services, such as the ability to order groceries or pizzas, are not expected to launch before the middle of the year.
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