Acetrax launches VOD with Panasonic

Acetrax has officially launched its video on demand service through web connected Panasonic TVs and it is claiming that it is “Europe’s first connected TV service enabling movies for purchase”.

What it means by this is, unlike services such as LoveFilm on Samsung and Sony TVs, Acetrax users can buy the titles they wish to keep rather than just renting them.

Pocket-lint went down to the launch in central London to find out how, and give the service the once over.

When you buy a film it is stored in a digital locker. But, with Acetrax you can also view films through your PC or Mac. With these you actually get a WMV copy of the movie rather than just streaming it. You can, therefore, have an actual digital copy stored on your machine, but still stream a copy from your digital locker on your TV.

You can also rent movies, just like LoveFilm. At the launch there are about 2000 movies available, as well as some TV series. Prices range from £1.49 to £3.49 for rentals and up to about £10.99 for a purchase.

Films are streamed using the VC1 Advanced codec which gives "DVD quality" according to Acetrax CMO, Leslie Golding. We're not going to disagree with him - we looked at a few films and they all looked very crisp.

At the moment the service works with any Panasonic internet connected TV featuring VieraCast. In the coming months it will also be introduced onto web-connected Blu-ray players as well.

You can have up to four devices linked to one account, so for example you could have your main Panasonic Viera TV downstairs, a Blu-ray connected to an older TV of any model in the bedroom, and still have it available on two other PCs or Macs.

Everything is wrapped in a Microsoft-powered DRM and rentals expire within 24 hours from when your first hit play - the digital locker clearly shows you how long you've got left as well as telling you which of your titles are rentals and which ones you own.

Golding allowed us to have a little play with the system and it was very responsive, we have to say. It was also pretty quick as well considering it was demoed using a shared Wi-Fi connection rather than a plugged in Ethernet link.

It's easy enough to navigate between different sections such as film genres, new releases and the most popular titles, and you can also access a film's synopsis and view the trailer before you commit to buying or renting.

The service is simple, anyone who has used an EPG will find it a doddle, and most importantly it is fast. There isn't too much waiting around for images or details to load, which is impressive for a completely web based service. When you click to buy or rent a title there is around a 2-minute wait before it begins - Golding said this was a DRM and licence check delay rather than a buffer period.

We asked him if the service was exclusive to Panasonic, and he told us it wasn't and that it was also speaking to other companies with a view to expanding. He was keen to stress however, how influential Panasonic was in the design process.

"We're not launching a separate app on a platform here", he said. "It's like Apple and iTunes, the two come as one".

One platform the service will not be hitting, unfortunately, is your console - whether that be Xbox 360 or PS3. Golding said that, within Europe at least, Sony and Microsoft are not interested in opening up their platforms for third parties.

That's a shame because it looks like a really good service and the more platforms it appears on, the better.