Television New Zealand is preparing to deliver TV programmes over the Internet to paying customers. The service will use the New Zealand-developed RPK encryption software, which may also be used to secure business-to-business transactions on an expanded business-targeted Web site.
TVNZ plans to greatly expand its use of streaming media products from RealNetworks, which last week announced a strategic software development and distribution agreement for SecureMedia, the encryption solution for streaming media developed by RPK Security.
Under the agreement, RPK will design, produce and deliver RPK SecureMedia for RealNetworks G2 and Real will market and distribute the product worldwide.
TVNZ's John Marks confirms his company is among half a dozen beta testers for the technology, which RPK says provides confidentiality, content protection, authentication and audience management for multimedia content. SecureMedia is also designed to make use of the serial number feature on Intel's Pentium III processor.
"RPK came to us and described their security product and asked if there was any way they could get involved with us in a beta test situation within New Zealand," says Marks. "The fact that RPK is a New Zealand company and they're doing pretty well on the world stage made us more inclined to support them.
"My perspective is that the product has some potential uses for us in the new areas that we're moving into. It's useful to use a development platform like this alongside other big players."
Subscription video services are likely to be targeted at the US, says Marks.
"It's becoming very clear to us that one of our huge potential audiences is the international one. We haven't defined clearly whether it's an international audience or an expat one, but our audience comes from the US on a very regular basis.
"There's a big demand for both streaming and AVI video. It's obvious that we've got a lot of programme material that's of interest to that group and so we're making plans to put up more of it."
Primary TVNZ programming is unlikely to be part of a pay service, says Marks.
"But archive material may turn into a subscription product, because you've got to find a way of paying for the bandwidth."
RPK technology is also being tested for use in a greatly expanded TVNZ business site, in which "we're starting to look at some business to business capability, which may allow some transactions from one business to another as part of a business process", says Marks.
"Within that environment, secure transactions obviously become quite important. We expect some companies may wish to use the site and the structure we're putting together to communicate internationally on the Net through our site."
Marks agrees TVNZ is "moving in the direction" of a business portal which will also feature live RealVideo streaming. "We don't want to challenge the market with any great claims, but it will be a far more comprehensive business site and the chance to create more of a portal environment."
Unlike a number of other local operators, TVNZ has no problem with the per-port licensing structure RealNetworks applies to its products. Both Microsoft and Apple have recently been touting their own streaming media products on the basis of their less onerous licensing.
"We've made our own arrangements, and it may be that because we're a big player that we're in a better position," says Marks.
Other SecureMedia beta testers include Stanford University School of Medicine, several US federal Government departments, Digital Bitcasting, POP!Multimedia, StorNet, 4Ward Logic and Netcast.
RPK president and CEO, Jack Oswald founded the company here in 1996. Its cryptographic research and product development are based in New Zealand and Switzerland - a consequence of the US government's controversial crypto export laws - but its worldwide sales and marketing base is in San Francisco
Oswald said last week his company's product was "aligned to become the de facto standard for protecting streaming media, because it is the only technology that can easily scale at low cost as broadband Net connections gain acceptance".