Panasonic has added an extra functionality to its Viera Cast service by announcing a partnership with Acetrax, which empowers users to stream and download a selection of movies over the internet to be watched directly on their TV sets. Viera Cast, which is currently available on some of Panasonic’s 2010 range of HDTVs including the VT20, V20, G20, D28 and D25 series, is a web interface that gives users access to selected online content like YouTube, Dailymotion, Picasa, Bloomberg, Eurosport and Skype.
Acetrax, a Swiss-based video-on-demand (VoD) specialist, obtains licenses for digital content not only from Hollywood and independent movie studios including Paramount, Warner Bros, Universal, Momentum, Diva and Film Is Now, but also from music companies like Eagle Rock and Charly Films. Acetrax then makes these digital content available to buy or rent on PC computers, smartphones, portable devices and most importantly, televisions.
Currently a catalogue of more than 2,000 titles are available to download, including some of the more recent blockbusters such as Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, Star Trek and Up In The Air. Depending on how new the title is, Acetrax charges a once-off fee of between £1.49 and £3.49 to “rent” the movie (which will expire after 24 hours), or up to £10.99 to “buy” the movie. The purchased movie is stored in a digital locker – taking full advantage of the hard drives capabilities of Panasonic Viera HDTVs – in DRM-protected WMV format, which can then be accessed on any combination of 4 registered devices, for example televisions, Blu-ray players, PCs and Macs.
Whether “bought” or “rented”, the movies are streamed using VC1 Advanced codec with only stereo sound and picture quality equivalent to a standard-definition DVD. Even though Acetrax has tried to bill this service as an alternative to subscription-based movie services such as Sky, BT and Virgin, probably only the most desperate of consumers would pay so much for so little: most people prefer to experience these movies in high definition and with surround sound on their flat-screen HDTVs.