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Starz Joins Netflix Constellation

12:50 PM -- Starz Play, Starz Entertainment LLC 's wholesale, broadband content service, just notched another big affiliate that's, again, not a cable operator: Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX).

Netflix, known for its DVD-mailing service and more recent broadband effort centered on the Roku set-top box, is offering access to the Starz Play library, which includes about 2,500 movies and other video titles. Initially, however, the Netflix Website will offer streaming access to about 1,000 titles from Starz Play and the flagship Starz TV service. Today, Netflix claims to offer north of 12,000 titles via the "Watch Instantly" tab on the Netflix home page. (See Netflix Sees Starz.)

netflix interface

To help prime the pump, Netflix and Starz Play are offering an earlier preview of the first episode of Crash, an original Starz series, ahead of its primetime premiere on Oct. 17.

Netflix members who subscribe to one of the company's "unlimited" plans will get Starz Play. Others have the option of signing up for a Starz Play-only subscription for $7.99 per month. Netflix had 8.4 million subscribers at the end of the second quarter, with most taking one of the company's unlimited tiers.

Netflix is compensating Starz for the content, but the companies did not disclose the terms of the multiyear deal.

The addition of Netflix is just the latest evolutionary move for Starz after it scuttled the Vongo downloading service on Aug. 1, and opted to focus solely on Starz Play, a wholesale version that's being targeted to broadband ISPs, cable operators, and telcos. (See Starz Pulls the Plug on Vongo.)

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) was the first to snare a deal for Starz Play, marketing it to about 8.5 million broadband subs for $5.99 per month. (See Verizon Downloads 'Starz Play' Deal.) Unlike the streaming-only version Netflix offers, the Verizon offering allows customers to download movies from Starz Play and port and watch them on approved devices until the viewing license runs its course. So far, no cable operators have deployed it. But Starz hopes that situation will change soon.

Getting a cable deal "is very much a priority for us," a Starz spokesman says.

In the meantime, some MSOs are striking out with downloading services of their own. Most notably, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is beta testing a "Store" application for Fancast that allows customers to rent and purchase titles via the Internet. (See Fancast Does Downloads.)

Not to beat a dead horse, but Comcast has already confirmed that anything that's downloaded from Fancast will be applied toward a monthly 250 Gigabyte cap on excessive use that went live today. (See Comcast Draws the Line at 250GB.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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