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BD Live drives ISPs to hone their offering

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The latest development on the Blu-ray landscape is the feature known as
BD-Live. It allows for interactive viewing and enables users to also
download additional content over the Internet using a Blu-ray player or Sony
PlayStation 3.

However, the one key ingredient for this to work – Internet connectivity –
is a costly damper on uptake. Through its partnership with ISP Axxess,
SterKinekor Entertainment hopes to assist South African users to exploit
this functionality more conveniently and at a lower cost.
Explains Nelmari Claassens, Sony Pictures marketing manager at SterKinekor
Entertainment: "Sony's PS3s and Blu-ray players both feature connectors to a
router that provides Internet connectivity.
By simply selecting the BD-Live button on the Blu-ray Disc menu, users can
connect to the Internet and launch the BD-Live application. They can then
navigate the BD-Live Homepage using the Blu-ray player's existing remote
control and download content such as updated reviews, ring tones, and
exclusive special features, and participate in gaming activities.
However, South Africa faces a few unusual challenges that make exploiting
this functionality in BD-Live, available with the launch of Sony's latest
BD-player in September 2008, a challenge.
"BD-Live requires international bandwidth and in South Africa this is a
costly service. This is why is it important to partner with an Internet
Service Provider (ISP) that understands these challenges and is driven to
provide packages that offer value-for-money along with value-adds."
Says Paul Fontana, director at ISP Axxess: "The quest for a 'digital
lifestyle' is driving the development of applications and entertainment
devices that increasingly make use of Internet connectivity. Blu-ray
technology and the enhanced home theatre experience that it delivers falls
into this category with the introduction of the BD-Live feature.
"Although undersea cables will see the introduction of far more realistic
pricing around international bandwidth, we are cognisant of current Internet
enthusiasts' requirements and are gearing ourselves for this."
Axxess had done this through the introduction of an innovative way of
purchasing bandwidth. Similar to the purchase of cellular airtime, bandwidth
can now be purchased at outlets like Pick n Pay and Engen. Its flexible
packages offer the lowest cost per Gb with options that include a 'pre-paid'
account where bandwidth can be purchased upfront, as well as a 'pay as you
go' method whereby additional Gbs can be purchased on demand.
Comments Franco Barbalich, director at Axxess: "To meet the demand of
Blu-ray users in the local market, we plan to launch a new division of
Axxess known as Axxess Media. Users will be able to download content from
our servers, allowing them to save on the cost of international bandwidth.
Concludes Claassens: "BD-Live enjoyed a phenomenal response in the UK with 2
000 visitors on the first day of its launch. This figure increased to 8 000
at the end of the first week of its soft launch, without any marketing
behind it. The new features that will be imminently released on the BD-Live
platform include interactive games with friends, family and other
movie/gaming enthusiasts anywhere in the world.
"The pending release of 'Men in Black' in the Blu-ray format, for example,
features an interactive trivia game with BD-Live's gaming option.  And
possibly the best part of this movie is the hysterical 'alien commentary
track' where you can watch the movie with an alien language translated into
subtitles.  This is truly a 10th Anniversary Intergalactic Experience that
only Blu-ray can offer.
"These are the kinds of value-adds that will have Blu-ray viewers logging in
via BD-Live. With ISPs like Axxess making this possible at a lower cost,
uptake of this feature becomes realistic for a broader segment of users."