Web-based television content streaming is hot in the news at the moment, courtesy of events like the Hulu-Boxee shut down. And now there's the new ZillionTV set-top box to add to the mix, and it's a pretty interesting little gizmo.
ZillionTV's aimed at the non tech-savvy consumer, since it promises a single installation unit that streams free TV content directly to a television. It's a lot like Hulu, but without the PC requirement. And, like Hulu and a bunch of other systems, it's ad-supported. There's an initial cost for the hardware coming in under $100, that gets you the "ZBar" device that is designed to sit atop the screen and contains the main electronics, and a ZRemote, that manages the user interface.
After that initial cost though, there's no charge for watching "regular" programs—though you do have to pay an ISP for a Web connection. It'll need to be over 3Mbps to get you standard-definition video streams and over 7 for HD video.
The service will also offer pay-per-view content, achieved through a partnership with Visa and a physical "one-click purchasing" button on the remote—that might make the Zillion more attractive to content providers, who'll also like the fact it's a streaming-only model, with no local storage and thus reduced piracy risks. "Major Hollywood studios and television networks such as ABC/Disney, Fox, NBC/Universal, Sony and Warner Bros." are already on-board.
There are also plans to run a "loyalty" program that lets viewers choose the "ads they're most interested in" or watch the "programming they love," and that sounds like it'll appeal to ABC et. al—it's likely to become a handy tool for manipulating the public into watching particular content. Though users may choose to avoid the advertising by simply paying a fee before settling down to watch a particular show.
The makers of the device are intent on supplying a "different" experience to TV viewers from cable or other set-top-box solutions. This is thanks to CEO David Dozoretz, who previously worked in special effects at Industrial Light and Magic for a decade. That might be why the "ZRemote" is more than a simple remote control, since it incorporates motion-sensing tech that enables you to gesture-control the device.
It all sounds very interesting, though we'll have to wait until ZillionTV moves out of beta testing and into the mainstream by the end of the year before we'll ever find out if it'll succeed.[ZillionTV.tv]