CBC to offer video updates to PDAs

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. isn’t the first company that springs to mind when you hear technological bandwagon, but it’s got a front row seat for PDAs.

The public broadcaster signed a six-month deal Wednesday with Mazingo Network Inc. to make some of its news content available to personal digital assitant (PDA) users. San Francisco-based Mazingo is a subscription-based, multimedia software company that delivers digitally-protected video to the handheld users.

“”We’re getting about 20 minutes’ worth of video a day from the CBC and it’s international news — everything from sports and entertainment and all that — and regional Canadian news,”” says Carmine Gallo, vice-president strategic alliances for Mazingo.

Customers are promised at least eight new video clips a day, and content will be updated on weekends and holidays as well.

Gallo says the process is simple: Users have a variety of content feeds or channels to subscribe from (news, music, TV shows, e-books). Whenever they sync their PDAs with the Web site, the content is updated. He recommends, however, that users have a broadband connection to the Internet.

“”Our files for newscasts, though, range anywhere from 2MB to 8MB. USA Today, for example, is about 8MB, which is a five minute newscast,”” Gallo says.

For its part, the CBC views the pilot program as experiment of sorts. CBC spokesperson Barbara Nyke says she has no idea what the demand is for this service.

“”When it comes to this type of product on Pocket PC or whatever the device is, because it’s such a new service we don’t know. Mazingo doesn’t know, we don’t know,”” Nyke says.

“”I would say over time people will look to this type of device to get news from CBC. What those numbers will be is anybody’s guess.””

Despite the uncertainty, neither party is risking much. Mazingo doesn’t pay anything to download the digitized content off a CBC server, while the CBC already digitizes its content for streaming from its Web site. Nyke says Mazingo will not have any exclusive content. Worse case scenario, the channel goes unwatched. Best case scenario, Mazingo adds to it 75,000 users, half of which are from outside the U.S., and the CBC collects some subscriber fees.

Gallo says he’s excited about the partnership because it can offer content from a true international organization.

“”The CBC stuff just blows most of what we have away,”” Gallo says. “”The CBC is in the same league as the BBC, and since 50 per cent of our users are international we really need that international news presence. And I think we got it with the CBC.””

For its part, Nyke says she believes this is an opportunity to offer something no other news organization in Canada does. “”We like to offer our users new products and new types of programming all the time. And we try and lead the way in that regard.””

The CBC also announced Wendesday a partnership with Ottawa-based ZIM Technologies International Inc. to deliver CBC Mobile News Updates as a short message service on mobile phones.

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