ENGLEWOOD, Colo., Jan. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Starz Entertainment Group LLC (SEG) today announced the premiere of VONGO -- a new video download application and service for broadband that delivers movies and other video content over the Internet for playback on Windows-based PCs, laptops, and select portable media devices, as well as on a TV.
"Vongo will provide the key content application that will drive a new era in portable video delivered over the Internet," said Robert B. Clasen, president and CEO of SEG. "By combining the wide array of programming choices on Vongo with a host of new portable media devices being announced this week at the Consumer Electronics Show, consumers will be able to seize control of their video and watch whatever, wherever and whenever they want."
Vongo subscribers will have unlimited access to more than 1,000 movies and video selections, as well as a live, streaming Starz TV channel, for a monthly cost of $9.99. Members may download movie and video selections to three eligible devices of their choice per account, allowing for multiple viewing options and family enjoyment. Additionally, select popular pay-per-view titles are available for $3.99 per movie. Vongo is currently available for broadband subscribers in the United States at www.vongo.com.
Starz also announced the first in a series of planned agreements that will extend Vongo's reach as the premier broadband entertainment service for consumers. Initial partners include Sony CONNECT and Microsoft. Sony CONNECT will make Vongo a cornerstone of its new CONNECT Video service, to be launched later this year. SEG worked with Microsoft to ensure that subscription video content from Vongo provides the highest-quality viewing experience on Windows-based PCs, laptops, and select portable media devices, as well as on a TV.
"Based on the evolution of the digital entertainment space, we believe that Vongo will be the critical component in a new entertainment ecosystem; combining services, Vongo's advanced user interface (UI) and a new generation of devices to offer consumers a truly unique offering," said Bob Greene, senior vice president, advanced services for SEG.
Vongo Leverages Starz Exclusive Movie Rights
As one of the largest content aggregators in Hollywood, Starz has access to thousands of theatrical films including first-run hits ("Hitch," "The Aviator," "The Incredibles," "National Treasure," "Kill Bill Vol. 2," "Finding Neverland") and classics ("Pulp Fiction," "Boyz N' The Hood," "Night of the Living Dead," "Good Will Hunting," "Hoosiers," "Dances With Wolves," "Annie Hall") for Vongo upon launch from many of Hollywood's biggest studios.
Greg Maffei, CEO-elect of SEG parent company Liberty Media Corporation (NYSE:L) (NYSE:LMCb) , added "Liberty is excited about this new service from Starz, not only because of its potential revenue stream, but because it positions us as the content leaders in this new era of portable video and personal consumer choice. This re-defines what it means to 'go to the movies,' because with Vongo, the movies go with you. The lessons learned in developing and launching Vongo can apply to other segments of our company and to our sister enterprises both in the US and overseas."
Clasen added, "Critical to this service are the Internet distribution rights we have acquired from our studio partners. We share with them a concern about the piracy over the Internet and so have built in a robust digital rights management system to ensure that only those who are authorized to use this service will do so. We also believe that by providing a convenient, affordable and legal way to access the best of Hollywood we will ensure that consumers will be much less likely to try to engage in video piracy."
Starz Entertainment Group is the exclusive subscription provider of first-run, classic and favorite films from leading Hollywood studios including Walt Disney Pictures, Miramax Films, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Films, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Columbia Tri-Star, Screen Gems, Revolution Studios and more. Select recent films are available exclusively from Universal Pictures and New Line Cinema and library and classic titles are provided by a wide array of Hollywood studios. Clasen concluded, "Vongo subscribers have full access to the very best content from Hollywood's biggest studios. Our breadth of subscription movie content is unmatched anywhere on the Internet."
In addition to the movies available as part of the subscription service, Vongo will offer subscribers and non-subscribers alike access to pay per view movies for $3.99 per film. Offering PPV titles in the earlier release VOD window will broaden the range of movies offered on the service and give consumers greater selection and choice.
"Exclusive -- and virtually unlimited -- access to 800-1000 movies per month is the programming foundation of the Vongo service," said Greene. "Adding a PPV option will bring consumers even more movies and will do so sooner as a result of the earlier window from Hollywood. With concerts, extreme sports, and in time, TV series, we see an opportunity to bring additional value and enjoyment to Vongo members, but subscription movies will remain the driver of the service. Vongo will expand significantly its non-movie content in time as we listen to feedback from our members and the content community."
Additional programming available to Vongo subscribers includes full-length music concerts ("INXS: Live Baby Live," "The Hives: Live in Las Vegas," "Prince - Sign 'o' the Times," "The Who: Live in Boston," "Brian Wilson: On Tour"), and Extreme Sports ("Warren Miller's Cold Fusion," "Real Action Sports," "Ride Guide"). At launch, Vongo will offer a live, East Coast feed of the Starz TV channel in its "Watch Live Now" category, with an eye towards adding other television-based content, including series in the future.
"Movies, sports and news are the main drivers for Internet content. So far, sports and news have found an opportunity to distribute content via the Internet, but due to the Hollywood rights issues, subscription movie content has been slower to come to market -- until now," said Greene. An important strategy in the development of Vongo is to engage in a number of strategic alliances with technology, media and device companies in order to extend the reach of Vongo as far as possible. "When we started working on this product 18 months ago, we reached out to industry leaders to engage them in the development of the service," said Greene. "By providing the critical content element, we are helping to create an entire ecosystem of products and services that will provide consumers with unmatched convenience and flexibility. These systems will be easy to use in multiple different settings."
Vongo Looks to Microsoft for Security and Portability -- Where Do You Vongo?
Starz is using Windows Media technologies to power the Vongo service for their ability to provide subscribers with the highest-quality playback experience, whether enjoyed at home on a Windows-based PC or on the go using eligible portable media devices or laptops.
"This is a significant development in the enjoyment of Internet-delivered video content," said Greene. "We believe the ability to easily, securely and legally move Vongo content to the TV and portable devices will be key drivers for Vongo's 'video on the go' consumers -- particularly as those important segments of the marketplace develop."
"With Vongo, Starz brings a wealth of premium and exclusive television and feature film content to hundreds of millions of Windows users," said Blair Westlake, corporate vice president of the Media, Content & Partner Strategy Group. "Powering Vongo with our Windows Media technologies not only gives consumers the best-quality video, but also gives them the flexibility to enjoy their content when and where they want, at home or on the go."
"The combination of Vongo's programming and Microsoft's digital rights management system and media player software has produced the catalyst for this new era of personal video," said John Pollard, senior director in the Mobile & Embedded Devices Division at Microsoft. "With this new service consumers have greater freedom to choose what they want to watch from anywhere at anytime."
Sony CONNECT with Vongo for Distribution
"We are very pleased to be working with Sony CONNECT," said Greene. "Our visions about video delivery over broadband are very much aligned, and we are excited about the marketing opportunities that Sony CONNECT will bring to the table."
In addition, Starz has partnered with a host of other providers in the development of Vongo. "We have built Vongo from scratch in partnership with 'best of breed' vendors and partners," Greene noted. "With Sony CONNECT, Microsoft, and other key alliances to be announced soon, we present the first examples of the broadband-delivered video ecosystem we have built around Vongo to catalyze the development of this marketplace."
Complements and Expands Core Business
Greene concluded that research conducted by SEG over the past year demonstrates that an Internet service will not cannibalize existing distribution systems including cable, satellite, and telco services. "Vongo expands the pie, as approximately 70% of Starz Ticket customers were not subscribers to Starz and approximately 50% were non-premium subscribers altogether. We developed Vongo so that we could provide our existing affiliates the ability to offer great movies directly to their broadband customers. We will work with them to find ways to offer Vongo, including packaging high-speed broadband connections with Vongo to attract even more consumers to this new way of accessing and enjoying content."
He also noted that Starz Ticket, launched in 2004 with RealNetworks Inc., will continue as a service, but that the focus for Starz will be on Vongo. "Starz Ticket on Real Movies provided us with a great chance to see how the market would react to broadband delivery of video. We learned an enormous amount in a real world environment and have incorporated all those lessons into the new Vongo service."
Vongo is available in the United States in beta form beginning today at www.vongo.com. The product will be showcased for interested media at CES in partner booths as well as at the Digital Media Experience at the Bellagio hotel on Jan. 4th from 7 - 10 p.m.
Starz Entertainment Group LLC (SEG) is the largest provider of premium movie services in the United States. SEG offers 13 digital movie channels including the flagship Starz(R) and Encore(R) channels with approximately 14 million and 25 million subscribers respectively. Starz Entertainment Group airs more than 750 movies per month across its pay TV channels and is a forerunner in offering its subscribers advanced services such as Starz HDTV, Starz On Demand(R) and Vongo(SM). Starz Entertainment Group is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation (NYSE:L) (NYSE:LMCb) , www.starz.com.
Source: Starz Entertainment Group LLC