Telephone company giant Bell Atlantic showed off its video-on-demand service Monday and announced that top Hollywood studios have provided films for a trial test in which consumers can dial up pix over existing phone lines.
Every top studio has agreed to provide programming for the historic test, in which 300 Bell Atlantic employees in northern Virginia will have access to entertainment, educational and informational vids.
Bell Atlantic dubs the new technology Interactive Multimedia Television (IMTV), and exex at the regional Bell operating company claim it represents a giant step toward the “information superhighway.” After showing reporters scenes from the film “Thelma & Louise” sent over existing copper phone lines, Bell Atlantic information services prez Art Bushkin said, “I cannot overemphasize the historic breakthrough you are witnessing today.”
“IMTV will change the way people live by dramatically changing the way they receive and use information over their telephone lines,” Bushkin said. “Bell Atlantic will deliver on the promise of the information age; namely, access to the information people want where, when and in the way they want it.”
Bushkin said Bell Atlantic’s northern Virginia test will be similar to Time Warner’s experiment in information and entertainment delivery in the Orlando market.
Other programmers participating in the trial besides the major film studios include NBC, HBO, Black Entertainment Television, USA Network, National Geographic Society and Worldvision/Spelling.
Wendy Ferren, veepee of pay TV for Disney, said her company supplied two firstrun live-action pix currently in the home cable pay-per-view window for the telco trial. “Obviously, we believe there’s potential here or we wouldn’t be participating,” Ferren said. Bushkin demonstrated that telephone calls can be received simultaneously with showing of the film, with no disruption in the picture. However, he said that at present, only one TV set in the home will be able to receive delivery of a film at any given time.
Bell Atlantic has filed suit to have a law barring phone companies from ownership of programming declared unconstitutional.
Programmers, rather than Bell Atlantic, will set the price for films sent over phone lines, according to Bushkin. The phone company will “act as a billing and collection agent,” he said.
Bell Atlantic is doing the trial not to reap huge profits but rather to test the technology and gather market data, according to Bushkin. Any losses will be incurred by Bell Atlantic shareholders.