Akimbo finds better position for Internet VOD

A new player enters the home entertainment field

Assembling a robust content library remains the killer app for those looking to control a robust broadband video-on-demand market. Easily getting content from the Internet to the living room is also key.

San Mateo, Calif.-based Akimbo Systems addresses both issues with its 2-year-old VOD service, which it hopes to widen to the mass market this holiday season.

Akimbo’s business model resembles that of digital video recorder pioneer TiVo. Users buy a third-party set-top box — RCA’s new Akimbo Player, which can store 100 hours of programming, debuts this fall with a list price of $299. The player connects easily to the TV via S-video, RCA or composite-video cable, and straight into a home DSL connection or wireless network (adapter sold separately), eliminating the need to move downloads from PC to TV.

Users pay $9.99 a month for Akimbo’s service, which offers downloadable access to more than 15,000 movies and programs — about half of which have additional a la carte prices ranging from 49¢ to $10.

Using an ergonomically friendly remote, users have access to the entire library of Movielink new-release hits directly on their TV. They can scroll through such channels as A&E and download from a selection of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” episodes or visit the BBC channel and select a “Fawlty Towers” installment. They can also check out the Major League Baseball channel and choose from an entire 2006 season’s worth of their favorite team’s games.

Besides a selection of strange, eclectic shorts and bizarre, adult-themed content — “Naked News” features anchors delivering the day’s highlights in the buff — there are tons of obscure indie and public domain pics available.

For its test drive, Variety chose the 1986 Ally Sheedy/Steve Guttenberg comedy “Short Circuit,” which took about two hours to download over wireless DSL and played back smoothly in rich letterbox form.

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