Video services

Datacasting Death

Another service with origins linked to datacasting technology is on the verge of pushing up daisies.

Engadget reports that MovieBeam Inc. is informing customers that it will call it quits on December 15. Not exactly the usual kind of "just in time for the holidays" news consumers are used to seeing these days.

Still, there's a rumor circulating that MovieGallery, MovieBeam's current owner, could attempt to migrate the MovieBeam brand and service to an Internet-only play.

But it looks like MovieBeam's attempts to try, try, try again have resulted in a triple failure, looking a bit like the flailings of a "Triple Lindy", but without the graceful entry.

Backed by Disney when it got off the ground in 2003, MovieBeam originally used broadcast TV spectrum to deliver movies to a special box outfitted with a big hard drive when the service got off the ground in 2003. It hit the reset button in April 2006 with two new investors -- Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Intel Capital -- offering some Disney films (including some stuff in hi-def) in the earlier DVD window and delivering services in 29 markets. The new box had an Ethernet port to complement the datacasting delivery system. It even found a spot on Light Reading's top 10 new services list in 2006... But it just made it in as No. 10. (See Top Ten Best New Services.)

But that tech-content play wasn't enough to drive the business forward due in part to a pricey box, so they eventually gave up and sold it to Movie Gallery.

MovieBeam isn't the only datacasting video play to hit the skids. U.S. Digital Television LLC (USDTV) used the technology to deliver a trimmed-down, "no-frills" video service in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, N.M., and Las Vegas. Following a three-year run marked by ineffectiveness, USDTV's assets were sold to NexGen Telecom LLC in 2006

But datacasting may still find some longer-term success in cable. Last year, Update Logic Inc. inked a non-exclusive deal with CableLabs to perform software updates and firmware upgrades over-the-air to OpenCable client devices such as set-tops and digital televisions.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. , and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), along with PBS, even conducted some early trial work. But since then, the project has been on radio silence.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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