- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Downloadable Starz

The Starz Entertainment Group is getting into the downloadable movie business.

The company is launching a movie download service that allows consumers to view full-length studio films, concerts and TV shows on portable devices powered by Microsoft Corp. software, Associated Press reports.

The service will provide content that could boost the success of a number of devices that will be introduced at this week’s annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Video delivered over the Internet will be a key theme at this year’s show.

The service, dubbed Vongo, is available for a monthly subscription of $9.99 and eventually will include more than 1,000 movies, short films and other programs. The films will be available at the same time they are offered on the Starz premium movie cable channel, about five to six months after they are released on DVD.

Users will be able to download as many films as they want each month to up to three devices, including Windows-based computers and portable devices running Microsoft’s Portable Media Center software.

A smaller number of films will be available several months sooner for a pay-per-view fee of $3.99. Subscribers also will be able to watch a live, streaming video feed of the Starz TV channel.

“It’s kind of ITunes for movies,” technology analyst Rob Enderle said, referring to the music download service offered by Apple Computer Inc.

Mr. Enderle and other analysts also said the service will reinvigorate the market for portable devices, such as the ones already offered by Creative Technology Ltd. and IRiver. The devices have not taken off, in large part because of a lack of compelling content, most notably big-studio movies.

A number of newer, smaller portable devices will be introduced this week and over the next several months to compete with Apple’s video IPod, which can play select ABC and NBC TV shows.

Portability also will make it easier for films downloaded to a computer to be viewed on a TV, where most people prefer to watch movies.

Starz is a subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp. and is based in Englewood, Colo.

Oscar makes three

“Tonight Show” announcer John Melendez began his career as a stammering sidekick for radio shock jock Howard Stern.

Now he’s a 40-year-old father of three.

Mr. Melendez’s wife gave birth to Oscar David Melendez on Sunday just after midnight, making Oscar the first baby born in the San Fernando Valley in 2006, AP reports.

The youngster weighed 8 pounds, 2 ounces.

“It’s just funny that my husband’s the one who usually is in the spotlight,” mother Suzanna Melendez, 39, told AP. “To pick how you come into this world and have it be New Year’s Day is pretty funny to me.”

Oscar has two sisters, ages 9 and 5.

“Three kids already; I might have to ask Jay Leno for a raise. That’s a lot of mouths to feed,” said Mr. Melendez, once known to radio fans as “Stuttering John.”

Mr. Melendez came to curious fame for his cringe-inducing, red-carpet interviews for Mr. Stern’s radio show, often carried out with his trademarkstutter.

Lopez’s latest

ABC’s George Lopez, one of the few Latino stars on television, is bringing more diversity to the tube.

The comic will executive-produce a new ABC sitcom starring an interracial family of three adult sisters and their relatives, Reuters news agency reports.

Actresses Lisa, Christina and Tanya Vidal will star in the series based on their actual lives.

Lisa Vidal met Mr. Lopez on the set of the 2004 Christmas TV movie “Naughty or Nice,” in which they played husband and wife. After hearing stories about Miss Vidal’s life and relationship with her sisters, Mr. Lopez, star of his self-titled sitcom on ABC, and his wife, Ann, suggested the sisters get a show of their own.

Lisa Vidal, who is doing a multiepisode stint on ABC’s “Boston Legal,” recently wrapped the indie “Shut In.” Her credits also include “ER,” “The Division” and “Third Watch” and the feature “Chasing Papi.”

Christina Vidal, whose credits include “Freaky Friday” and the ABC series “10-8: Officers on Duty,” recently wrapped the horror movie “See No Evil.”

Tanya Vidal had a recurring role on “The Division.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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