LOS ANGELES -- Walt Disney Co.'s MovieBeam set-top box is coming back in an upgraded version that aims to be a Blockbuster in a box. The box receives movies through over-the-air broadcasts and stores them on a hard drive. Disney started testing the service in three cities in 2003, then put it on hiatus in April.
Disney is relaunching the box as a separate company, MovieBeam Inc., with several new financial backers, including
The new set-top box can show movies in high definition and display DVD extras such as directors' commentaries. Unlike cable TV video-on-demand services that keep movie files on a central computer and send them to a consumer when ordered, MovieBeam boxes come preloaded with 100 films. About 10 new movies are sent each week over an unused part of the broadcast TV signal.
Consumers pay $199 for the box after a rebate, and a $29 activation fee. After that, they pay video store prices for 24-hour rentals.
The service will be launched in 29 large markets, with plans to take it nationwide.
MovieBeam plans to introduce a stand-alone antenna with a USB port that can be attached to a computer or other portable device, eliminating the need for a box.
But the real goal is to get ready for the ultimate video store end-run -- allowing consumers to buy films and burn them to DVDs. ''Those rights don't exist today, but they will be coming and we want to be a part of that," said TresIzzard, MovieBeam's CEO.