Vongo Vanishes (But Will Live On, Sort Of)
Yet another movie-download site has ended its run -- but the people behind it say its sequel is already off to a fine start.
Vongo, the movie-rental service launched by the Starz movie channel in 2006, stopped taking new customers on Aug. 1 and will close up shop entirely on Sept. 30. Somehow, most of the Web (myself certainly included) didn't take notice until this week.
A frequently-asked-questions file on the Vongo site explains that Vongo users can switch to a new, Verizon-marketed service called Starz Play. This process will involve uninstalling the Vongo software and installing the new Starz Play program (both Windows only), then re-downloading new copies of your movies.
Eric Becker, Starz Entertainment's executive director for corporation communications, said the company thought it would do better letting affiliates -- telecom firms like Verizon, which already provide service to customers -- bundle its offering with their own, handling marketing and billing along the way. He noted that the regular Starz channel has always been distributed that way.
"As a programmer, we don't deal typically with customers," he said. "Now we're basically bringing the broadband business in line with all our other services."
Verizon is the only such affiliate for Starz Play so far; it will charge $5.99 a month, down $4 from Vongo's monthly fee. Non-Verizon customers, however, can sign up for the service as well.
Becker (who sounded a bit put-upon after the last few days of stories shoveling dirt on Vongo's grave) allowed that the transition from Vongo to Starz Play could be "a bit of a pain for the consumer," but expressed optimism about the "enormous upside" of having the likes of Verizon sell its online services.
True, a lower price and simpler billing (Verizon customers will just see another $5.99 added to their monthly rate) could make this service more appealing. There's also much to say for retiring a name that was an anagram for "Vogon". But I'm not sure if a service stuck with the same thin catalogue and tight usage restrictions as other movie-download options can break this market open anytime soon.
Do you? Does Starz Play look more appealing than Vongo?
August 13, 2008; 3:27 PM ET
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