Microsoft will be making a significant push into the online entertainment market by offering VOD broadband service Intertainer through its widely available internet portal when it is revamped next week under the name of MSN 7.

Intertainer's VOD service will made be available in the top 35 broadband markets in the US, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C. (See complete list below.)

The MSN tie-in, which goes live Oct. 25, represents a potential quantum leap forward for California-based Intertainer. In April 2001,the company had 40,000 subscribers and was hoping to increase that to 260,000 by year's end. By contrast, MSN is visited each month by some 22m broadband households.

According to Microsoft, by the end of the first quarterof 2002, MSN Broadband will be available to more than 90 percent of DSL-capablehouseholds in the US. The company recently signed broadband pacts with major UStelecoms Verizon, BellSouth and SBC. With the Intertainer option, MSN 7 willsurely challenge AOL Time Warner as the preeminent US broadband portal.

All the major studios have announced online VOD initiatives, most recently Walt Disney andNews Corp. (owner of Twentieth Century Fox), with launches expected within 12 months. However, Intertainer is the acknowledged pioneer in creating a viable online VOD business and no doubt the studios will now be watching to seewhether average movie fans can be persuaded to watch movies on their personal computers. Already helping the venture's chances is the ubiquity of the S-video cable, a simpleconnection between the PC and television that is included with most new laptopcomputers.

The Intertainer library features more than 70,000 hours of film, TV and music content from Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., DreamworksSKG, Artisan Entertainment, New Line Cinema, NBC, A&E Television Networks,Discovery Channel, EMI Music, ESPN, PBS and Warner Music Group.

Films currentlyavailable through Intertainer include The Mexican, Fifteen Minutes, Blow and Miss Congeniality. The company expects to have concluded deals with all the other studios by December. None of its movie deals isexclusive.

The Intertainer subscription service will cost $7.99 per month with home video window fare suchas The Mexican costing a further $3.99 for a 24-hour viewing period. Library titles are $2.99 and music videos are free. As video programming will be encoded at 500 Kbpsusing Microsoft's Windows Video 8 software, viewers will require aminimum throughput of 580kbps in their internet connection.

Intertainer will be available in the following US cities: Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago;Cincinnati; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Hartford,Conn.; Houston; Indianapolis; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee;Minneapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; New York; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Phoenix;Pittsburgh; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh, N.C.; Sacramento, Calif.; Salt Lake City;San Diego; San Francisco; Seattle; St. Louis; Tampa, Fla. and Washington D.C.