Nibbling on Internet Video

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My household is a nightmare for cable and satellite systems, as we pay a la carte for our premium video entertainment, something most cable systems have resisted as they profit from selling bundles of channels. My family has enjoyed feeding on commercial programs served across the Internet–part of our experiment of cutting the cable.

Our choices will expand next week when Akimbo offers its service for direct downloading to a PC. A pioneer in offering premium video over the Internet, Akimbo has collected an eclectic range of programs, including those from a number of cable mainstays like the History, National Geographic, and HGTV channels.

I've tried Akimbo through a stand-alone box the company lent me, and I liked the service. It's also available on PCs running the Media Center edition of Microsoft Windows. But those routes cost $10 a month, plus an upfront charge: The Akimbo box costs $100, which is about the premium for a PC that's running Media Center. AT&T also offers Akimbo with its Homezone service, which comes with satellite-like fees.

Akimbo
COURTESY OF AKIMBO SYSTEMS INC.

The new Akimbo offering has no monthly fee and will instead peddle individual programs for 50 cents to a few dollars. It won't include the Movielink option for movies, and Akimbo isn't adding prime-time network shows, wanting to differentiate itself from iTunes and other services emphasizing those, says Jim Funk, an Akimbo cofounder.

The PC offering also shifts from Akimbo's focus on the TV–the Akimbo box, for example, makes it easy to link the service to a television. It can be a pain linking a PC to a television, but the computer is becoming more important even as a supplement to Akimbo's box, Funk says: "It's hard to browse 14,000 choices on a TV."

At our house, I've succeeded in attaching a PC to our big-screen set, and Akimbo's pure a la carte approach is appealing. We don't watch enough TV to justify the fees that cable and satellite charge for their buffet, but we want good shows when we do watch. So, please, we'll order from the Internet menu.