Qwest aims for clearer digital video

By Jessica Hall, InfoWorld |  Networking

(REUTERS) -- Telephone and data services company Qwest Communications International Inc. aims to make its promise of transmitting "every movie ever made in every language, anytime" more than just an advertising slogan.

Qwest Digital Media, a unit launched in September, uses the company's high-speed communications network to transmit broadcast-quality video to corporations. In time, it may broadcast movies or programming to consumers' television sets or the neighborhood movie theater.

"Clear video can be done. We're making sure we have the network capability so customers aren't going to see that kind of herky-jerky presentation -- or one where the audio drops out every seven seconds -- that they might have seen in the past," Qwest Digital Media Chief Executive David Woodrow said in a recent telephone interview.

Qwest Digital Media concentrates on providing video production, Webcasting, and video on-demand to corporations and broadcast networks.

The company also sees potential in the emerging markets for high-definition television and digital cinema -- the digitization, storage and distribution of films. Industry analysts peg the market for digital cinema storage and distribution at about $7 billion by 2005.

DIGITAL MEDIA FOR CONSUMERS IS STILL DEVELOPING

The reality of providing "every movie ever made" on demand may be still be far off since most homes don't have direct access to high-speed broadband networks or the powerful computers and modems needed to easily view streaming media.

As local telephone and data companies expand their networks to bring broadband networks closer to consumers' homes, digital video would become more viable.

Consumers could watch movies or special programming on demand over television sets fed by high-speed networks. Local movie theaters could use broadband connections, rather than giant reels of film, to broadcast feature films.

Qwest, along with Cisco Systems Inc.'s and Twentieth Century Fox, last summer conducted the world's first digital screening of a major motion picture, "Titan A.E."

It could take another five years before neighborhood movie theaters move away from film reels to broadband networks, Woodrow said.

"The theater screen industry is clearly having their own challenges today, and part of it is the economics of how they run their business," Woodrow said.

"If they can cut their distribution costs -- that allows them to be much more flexible and lower their cost structure. We'll have to wait for the screen industry to stabilize and then put the capital in for theaters to be digitally enabled," Woodrow said.

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