The independent news organization of Duke University

CFlix debuts as DTV Movie Channel replacement

Efforts to bring the DTV Movie Channel back have run into a financial roadblock, but officials are optimistic that the service may return in the next year, even as Internet-based alternative CFlix attempts to stake a claim to the campus' movie-on-demand market.

The University removed the channel in August 2001 because the offering of almost 50 free movies a month grew too expensive. In a Duke Student Government referendum vote last spring, 46 percent of students approved of a proposed plan to increase the student housing fee by a maximum of $40 per semester to bring back the channel, but the University has not made any move to readopt the system.

Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said a change from the current "fee-paid" to a "pre-paid" service would create financial challenges.

"To convert to a 'pre-paid' [service]--that is, already in the rent--requires a rent increase which, although students voted to endorse it last year, would affect our relative room rates as compared with peer institutions and would limit the amount of tuition and other fee increases Duke could make next year," Moneta wrote in an e-mail.

Kevin Williams, a senior who as a DSG legislator last year spearheaded the referendum, said he still hopes to bring back an alternate version of the channel provided by a company called Residence Life Cinema.

"I hope DTV will host a month of free trial service by the end of the semester, and then a permanent version could be in place by next semester," Williams said.

Moneta was less optimistic, however, setting his sights on fall 2003.

Students said they were interested in bringing back the movie channel, but were wary of high prices.

"It was an entertaining channel to have--to have movies all the time. I was quite surprised when they took it off," said senior Kelvin Woo. He said he might pay more to get the channel if it was brought back.

Meanwhile, CFlix, an Internet startup created by Brett Goldberg, Trinity '99, is still in its launch phase. The service offers video-on-demand via broadband Internet on a pay-per-view basis for between $2 and $4 a movie. CFlix also requires a $4 per month fee for continuous programming like classic Comedy Central shows.

"We're set to provide Duke students with a great service," Goldberg said. "We've already got Warner Bros. and Disney on board, which is a big step."

The Office of Information Technology decided to offer CFlix as a complementary service to cable service after a successful free pilot program in the spring.

"The [video-on-demand] functionality was very attractive to students whose schedule often conflicts with traditional cable TV programming timing," said Angel Dronsfield, senior director of OIT planning and business strategy.

Most students said they had heard of CFlix, but had not yet considered signing up for it. "Four dollars [a month is] a reasonable price, but I wouldn't necessarily do it because I don't watch too much TV and most of the movies I watch I already have," said sophomore Jessi Miller.

Cindy Yee contributed to this story.