Broadband Media Goes Deep

SAN FRANCISCO (04/19/2000) - Only a year ago, we had a hard time finding online content designed especially for the lucky few of us with cable-modem and DSL connections. Even the broadband Internet service providers didn't have much to boast about; only Excite@Home's limited showcase approached being a broadband portal.

But as the number of broadband subscribers approaches 2.5 million, streaming-media sites are finally offering a reasonable selection of 128- to 300-kilobits-per-second video and animation clips.

It's hardly an explosion, but it's definitely a trend: Dozens of sites are attracting broadband users with movie trailers, short films, Flash animations, 3D games, high-quality Internet radio, and of course MP3 files.

Who's In?

Most of the action--and some of the best broadband media--has come from smaller players, typically dial-up streaming sites that increasingly put higher bandwidth clips alongside slower options.

Reel.com and Moviefone.com offer 300-kbps trailers, and Live365.com and other radio networks provide numerous DSL and cable options for their stations. The Web has also become a venue for short independent films through sites such as AtomFilms and IFilms.

Now the big fish are taking notice. Time Warner is a broadband content leader with Entertaindom, and this month AOL released its AOL Plus service to subscribers. Back in March, Sony announced it would actively enter the broadband content field with a new umbrella company called Sony Broadband Entertainment.

NBC, the most active of the TV networks in broadband, debuted its high-bandwidth NBCi site in February. In March, AT&T announced it was strengthening its control over Excite@Home, which had greatly expanded its existing broadband content earlier that month with the launch of @Home 2000.

In this new broadband portal, "all of the rich media we have is in much larger frame sizes and higher quality resolutions," says Richard Gingrich, senior vice president and general manager at Excite Studios. "We've added much more news video from multiple sources. We have a feature called Click Video that aggregates short videos from AtomFilms, Mondo Media, and the Daily Show."

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