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PC World streams movies to your TV


December 10, 1999
Web posted at: 1:44 p.m. EST (1844 GMT)

by Cameron Crouch

(IDG) -- A high-speed connection will bring video to your PC, but will it ever replace your trips to Blockbuster? thinks so.

Already, streams movie clips that you can view on a PC even with a 56-kilobits-per-second modem. In June the company will launch its full broadband-only site, where subscribers with cable, digital subscriber line, or satellite connections will be able to order full-screen movies for around $5, and then watch them on their TVs.

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The company unveiled its plans at this week's Streaming Media West show in San Jose.

Besides a broadband connection, requires a Windows PC with at least a 300-Mhz Pentium II and 64MB of memory.

Squinting at flicks

Bandwidth constraints keep most of today's Web video to small playback windows on your PC. says it can do better.

"We will offer full-screen video because the quality is there," says Martin French, senior vice president of sales and marketing. Having licensed about 1500 movies, is working with to offer streams of 100 kbps, 300 kbps, 375 kbps, and 700 kbps.

Still, watching a movie on your PC isn't all that fun. has a wireless transmitter and receiver system that will send streaming video from your PC to your TV. Although the transmitter will cost about $200, is working with DSL, cable, and satellite service providers to bundle it with broadband service.

"It'll be like when you sign up for caller ID and you get the box as part of the service," says Jeff Pescatello, president and chief executive officer of

But will work without the transmitter, should next year's TVs come with computers built in, Pescatello adds. "It's the free remote [that controls playback on the PC] that really makes the service."

Keep your VCR

Despite broadband's promise of real-time multimedia content, streaming video over the Internet still has poor quality. Playback tends to be jerky and grainy, lacking the flow inherent to moving-picture narration.

Yet, says its movies will look good enough for the average consumer.

"People don't need high-definition TV," says French.

Although it's better than most video on the Web, the MeTV clips I played still made me feel like I was watching a photo montage and not a movie, and that was over a T1 connection. will offer videos by category, and will suggest movies based on preferences in your member profile. Signing up for is free, but don't be surprised if some ads appear along with the flicks.

To protect copyrights, won't let you record videos on your PC.

"You could record off the TV with a VCR," says Peskadello. Maybe recorded on super long play mode, it will look a little better. Or you might just want to wait for downloadable DVDs.

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