Technology

Affiliates Attack!

iBlast looks to use TV transmission towers to distribute digital content.
Russ BanhamJune 1, 2001

Cable modems, digital subscriber lines, and other high-speed highways aren’t the only routes to the local Internet drive-in. iBlast (www.iblast.com), a Los Angeles-based network representing 246 local television stations around the country, wants to bring movies to PCs the old-fashioned way: through the airwaves.

This wireless data broadcasting network beams to more than 93 percent of the continental US, with transmission towers aimed at PCs, set-top digital boxes, PowerVR platforms, and other receiving devices. Although the company is still testing the technology, iBlast’s management hopes the major studios will tap it as another virtual distribution channel. “We can send their stuff at the speed of lightning, with the same quality as network TV,” says Michael Lambert, iBlast cofounder and CEO.

Lambert, former president of domestic television at 20th Century Fox and one-time head of HBO’s home video distribution company, says iBlast is 200 times faster than the standard dial-up Internet connection. It can transmit up to 26,000 songs or 30 full-length movies a day, albeit just one way. “We distribute what we distribute — you can’t decide [which movie you want to see],” he explains. Lambert believes iBlast will also help soothe industry worries over piracy. The service will be so cheap, he claims, there will be little incentive for pirates to copy and circulate movies. “We make it more efficient for us to send a film to you than for you to send it to your neighbor.”

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No content providers have jumped on board yet, although Lambert is in talks about the project with several movie studios. Working capital shouldn’t be a problem, though — he’s raised $40 million from major broadcast groups, including Tribune Co., Gannett, and Cox Communications. Crows Lambert: “We’re in the right place at the right time.”