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Boston techies envision TV's on-demand future

Page 3 of 3 -- Broadbus Technologies.
Vin Bisceglia, chief executive of the Boxborough company, says he's selling a better video-on-demand system than SeaChange's. "We view them as the first generation," he says. "We use RAM memory, whereas they use spinning hard disks."

Bisceglia says Broadbus's system can support more users less expensively. But the company's customer list fails to impress (Shrewsbury Community Cablevision?), and Kelso at SeaChange vows, "We're going to do everything we can to stop Broadbus dead in their tracks."

Gotuit Media.
Andover-based Gotuit wants to produce an index to shows that you watch on demand. "You can watch only the biggest punches in a boxing match, or only the goals in a lacrosse match," says president Mark Pascarella. Time Warner is testing Gotuit's indexing system in Maine, where it's available to about 30,000 customers.

But ouch: Gotuit did a pivotal deal with the NHL to index the big hits, saves, and goals of NHL hockey games, which are temporarily on ice. And while Pascarella boasts about Gotuit's "very robust intellectual property portfolio," I'm not sure what prevents anyone else from doing indexing of their own, especially giants like Gemstar-TV Guide International.

NetCableTV.
Last November, former Yahoo executive David Graves bought the assets of a defunct Hull company called NetMovies. (NetMovies was started by John Fanning, the uncle of Napster founder Shawn Fanning, and it had aimed to allow viewers to download movies from the Net to their PCs for a $5 monthly subscription.) He is trying to position his new company as an infrastructure supplier.

"We're plumbing," Graves says. "We want to provide the software to do on-demand over the Internet."

Graves wants to work with movie studios and TV networks to help them sell their content by subscription or on an a la carte basis. Those deals will be tough to do, and he'll have to compete with Movielink, an established joint venture of several major studios.

Will Richmond is right: It is a good time to be a consumer. But when I floated the notion that in this on-demand world of the future, I might be able to pare down my monthly cable bill, there was a long silence on the other end of the phone. What if all I wanted to do was watch one "Sopranos" episode a week? Shouldn't the cable company be able to sell me that for less than $80?

"The likelihood of your cable bill going down is uncertain," he said. But watch out, cable profiteers. The Internet may be gaining on you.

Scott Kirsner is a contributing editor at Fast Company. He can be reached at skirsner@verizon.net. 

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