Watching Video at Hotspots

By Naomi Graychase

May 10, 2005

A partnership between mutually admiring companies with compatible technologies is giving public access Wi-Fi a content push in the form of movies on demand.

OnAir Entertainment, a new provider of proprietary media services to Wi-Fi hotspots, hotel IP networks and MDUs, has teamed up with Norfolk, Va.-based TotalVid to offer TotalVid's entire 1,000-title library of special-interest movies to customers at OnAir's hotspots.

OnAir, which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., has developed a proprietary network appliance (the DVS0-100) that caches downloadable movies, music and games locally at hotels, restaurants and airports, speeding up download times significantly. The service has already been deployed at the Austin-Bergstrom Airport in Austin, Texas and at Jerry's Deli in Los Angeles.

Company CEO Rand Bleimeister says, "The benefit is that movie downloads are slow—up to two hours to download a movie over typical DSL. By caching movies locally, the download time is reduced to less than 15 minutes for a full-length feature film."

TotalVid's library appeals to certain types of entertainment enthusiasts whose needs and interests are not being met by more mainstream outlets.

"We launched with action sports and travel," says Karl Quist, general manager of TotalVid, whose passion for windsurfing inspired him to launch the company.

"I had a strong belief that for any content business to be successful, it had to have unique, compelling content not available elsewhere," Quist says. "I had two windsurfing videos at my house and, much to my wife's chagrin, I watched these same videos over and over. I had my TiVo programmed to record anything that had windsurfing in the description, and it never found anything. Even with 100-some-odd channels, there was nothing dedicated to those sports. So I understood that there were all of these other categories where the need was unmet. The customers who try us, try us because we give them a way to watch things they can't find anywhere else."

TotalVid says it is currently the leading video download store for action sports, travel-related content, and anime. Its library includes roughly 1,000 films in 22 categories, including Travel, Extreme Life, and Motorsports. The newest categories are Home Improvement, Music Instructional, Martial Arts, and Anime.

"Anime is an enormous, $4 billion market in the U.S.," says Quist of the Japanese cartoons. "You can't go to Blockbuster and get a deep selection of anime, yet there are fans out there who will stand in line for hours to get into a convention to purchase new anime. These people are also typically very early adopters of technology, which makes them a perfect fit for us."

Each video can be downloaded for a few dollars, and viewed an unlimited number of times for up to a week. If a user decides to purchase the video after viewing, the cost of the rental is automatically deducted from the purchase price.

TotalVid acquires its content by working directly with producers.

"We find producers who are selling on DVD, and we license it from them," says Quist. "We work with about 200 producers that provide content for our site."

To prevent piracy or theft, TotalVid protects filmmakers' rights by using the same software that Hollywood studios are using.

"We leverage the best technology out there," says Quist. "We use Microsoft's Windows Rights Management and infrastructure to do that. When someone gets a video from us, it's encrypted. We give them a key, and Windows uses it to determine if they have the rights. They can play it for an unlimited number of times over a particular period of time, but they can't burn it and can't screen capture it. It's very reliable; it hasn't been broken."

The company chose to partner with OnAir in order to extend the distribution of its content.

"OnAir is bringing us an audience that fits very well with our content," says Quist. "People who are connected consume a great deal of online content. OnAir reaches people in an environment where our content and videos make a lot of sense to them. With OnAir, users can dramatically reduce the download time, which hopefully increases the amount they purchase."

OnAir, which also offers a server that enables travelers to watch live television on their laptops using a local Wi-Fi network in airports or on commuter trains, is pleased with the partnership.

"Karl Quist is a visionary," says Bleimeister. "TotalVid's content is perfect for our target demographic."

When looking to the future, Quist says, "We're definitely very early in the consumer adoption of paid full-length video downloads. These are not people who are downloading content from other services. We are the first place they've paid for video content on the Web. Consumers are waiting for a really compelling video application before they'll open up their wallets and pay for it."



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