Q&A With Bob Greene: Starz Beats Vongo’s Drum

By Mavis Scanlon

Starz’s new movie download service, Vongo, promises to heighten infighting in the crowded Internet movie download space, even as it portends a potential death knell for sister service Starz Ticket. For a monthly fee of $9.99 ($2 less than Ticket), the Windows-based Vongo offers more than twice the number of movie titles as Ticket. CableWORLD spoke with Starz SVP, advanced services, Bob Greene about the opportunity for cable operators to bundle Vongo into their high-speed data offerings.

CableWORLD: When will you be able to sign a cable or telco deal?

Bob Greene: It’s probably going to take a good part of the year. It’s not an issue of interest; it’s just how they work.

CW: How will your sub numbers ramp up in comparison to Ticket?

Greene: I think we’ll easily pass Starz Ticket in the first month or two. When you look at what [our partners] Sony or Microsoft can do for you and what some of these other CE manufacturers can do for you, I think that this takes us to a whole other level of marketing presence.

CW: Was Starz Ticket an interim step to see what a download movie service looks like?

Greene: It was for me. The interesting thing about this is we’ve built our own platform…having our own platform allows us to be much more flexible. And we’ll have a very strong retail push, but we’re also [able to go] to the cable and telco industries. We can offer them broadband content that can be bundled into their high-speed data services, or offered a la carte. They keep the customer, authorize the customer, manage billing and do all the other heavy lifting on the network.

CW: How does that differ from Starz Ticket?

Greene: The billing is very important. It’s a very big part. The cable industry wants to control the customer.

CW: How will you convince Movielink customers to convert?

Greene: Maybe we don’t. We’re not really focused on converting Movielink subscribers at all, or CinemaNow, for that matter. If you look at our research, which just came out, what we found is that people don’t go to video stores any more if they’ve got Starz On Demand. So we think that’s where the market comes from–people who rent videos from stores and potentially online.

CW: Let’s talk about digital rights management. Could I download 800 movies?

Greene: There’s nothing to keep you from doing that. If someone downloads 30 or 100 movies and then cancels their subscription, as soon as they do that then the next time they touch the Internet those files will be wiped out. The software on your desktop has an auto-delete function in it that goes and finds the files.

CW: [Starz Ticket partner] RealNetworks can’t be happy about Vongo.

Greene: We’re in discussions with [Real] as far as what transition should take place: Should Starz Ticket remain or should Real become a marketing partner to Vongo? We’re confident we will continue to have a very positive relationship with RealNetworks.

[Copyright 2006 Access Intelligence, LLC. All rights reserved.]

COPYRIGHT 2006 Access Intelligence, LLC

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning

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