HybridTV, the company behind the TiVo in Australia, yesterday announced the launch of their new 320GB TiVo device, alongside a new Video on Demand service called Caspa. Not quite a friendly ghost, but it's certainly a promising development for downloadable entertainment in Australia.
The 320GB TiVo will cost $699, while the current 160GB version will drop down to $599. The two devices are identical in every way bar hard drive size, including the new software offering. Over the Christmas period, the new 320GB TiVo will also be bundled with the home networking software for free, although you'll still need a copy of Roxio Toast if you want it to work properly with your Mac.
But the more exciting part of the announcement is the Caspa VOD service. From December 1, the Video on Demand icon will be renamed Caspa on Demand. It will offer a selection of movies (both through Caspa and through the current Blockbuster partnership), TV shows and music video content through a partnership with Bandit.FM. There's a fair amount of info to digest, so I'll break it down into the three catagories: Movies: Worth mentioning is that this won't replace the Blockbuster offering that's currently available for TiVo users. Just like TiVo in the US offers Netflix and Amazon, this is an extra service. You'll need to setup a Caspa wallet to pay for content (which van be used across all the Caspa services except Blockbuster movies).
All movies follow the standard 7-14 days to start watching and 48 hours to watch after you press play. New movies will cost $5.95, library titles will cost $3.95, and all are standard def (although many have 5.1 audio). HD is something that will come once Aussie bandwidth increases and data limits disappear - in other words, once the NBN is ubiquitous.
TV: This is where Caspa will shine. HybridTV CEO Robbee Minicola told me that they have either signed, or are planning on signing in the near future, agreements with all the major television studios, both locally and from the US. Episodes will initially be rentals with the same restrictions on watching as movies (7-14 days to start, 48 hours to watch), and be broken down into either premium or favourites (as dictated by the studios). Premium shows will be $2.95 an episode. Favourites, on the other hand, will offer the first three episodes for free, and then charge $1.95 per episode after that. Many programs will combine both favourites and premium - for example, the current season will be premium, while previous seasons will be "favourites".
But starting April next year, HybridTV plans on introducing an advertising module, which will allow you to download favourite TV shows for free, in return for watching three 30 second ads – one at the start, one in the middle, and one at the end of each episode. You'll be able to choose between paying $1.95 or getting the ep with ads for free. What's more, the ads will be interactive, allowing you to enter competitions or receive free stuff, depending on the advertiser's wishes. You don't have to interact, but you can if you want - it'll just pause your show while you do.
I don't know about you, but I'd put up with 90 seconds worth of ads to watch a TV show for free when I wanted to...
Music: The music feature with Bandit.fm includes free music videos, free interviews with artists and the ability to hire VOD concerts from certain artists. As time goes on, that will probably expand, but it already has content from all the major record labels, which is a promising first step.
At launch on December 1, Caspa will have about 1200 hours of VOD content, including the Blockbuster titles. As time goes on, that'll grow rapidly. There are also plans to introduce user-generated content to the platform, as well as a services platform. But that's another post altogether.
What do you guys think? My gut feeling is that this will become the de facto VOD service for most people pretty quickly... Especially considering that Internode, iiNet and Adam all have unmetered downloads for TiVo.