University signs contract with online service Cflix

Yale has signed a contract with Cflix, a company that delivers educational and entertainment content to students online, for a pilot program that will run from Jan. 13 until the end of the semester, ITS Director of Academic Media and Technology Chuck Powell said Wednesday.

There will be access to the educational section of the site at http://media.cflix.com/yale starting tomorrow. Professors will be able to upload videos for students to download for free. Cflix will make paid video-on-demand available in February and will place music online at the end of February or beginning of March, Cflix founder and President Brett Goldberg said.

The pricing for these music and video-on-demand services is still being worked out, Goldberg said. For both services, there will be the option to pay a la carte or through a membership package with reduced pricing, Goldberg said. Students will initially pay for these services through Paypal, an online payment company. Goldberg said Cflix hopes to eventually allow users to pay through bursar billing to increase ease of use and trustworthiness.

Powell said Cflix met ITS’ desire to provide both class content and entertainment to students.

“Right now we think they’re the best possible partner,” Powell said. “The most appealing thing to us as ITS was the dual functionality.”

Powell said other factors in ITS’ choice were Yale’s desire to roll out the entertainment portion of the program as an optional service and Cflix’s interest in providing video in addition to music.

For now, Powell said, only Windows users will be able to use the media on the site because the digital rights management standard requires the use of Windows Media Player. Powell said he hopes Cflix will come up with custom software using the Microsoft standard that will work on Apple machines.

Powell said this lack of access for Apple users is one of the reasons this is a pilot program. Goldberg said the goal is to expand access to Apple computers in the fall.

Information Technology Services is holding discussions with 20 to 30 faculty members to use Cflix to offer academic content, Powell said. He said it would be difficult to predict exactly how many students will use the service this semester because students may enroll in more than one course utilizing Cflix. But he estimated that between 200 and 500 students will use the content.

Goldberg said Cflix’s music service will be “consistent” with Apple iTunes and other competing services, offering several hundred thousand songs with new selections added weekly. Cflix will also seek to add additional content compelling to college users, such as local bands.

Video-on-demand will be available from the various subsidiaries of Disney and Warner Brothers and Cflix is in discussions with MGM about possible offerings, Goldberg said.

“We’re talking to many [other studios],” Goldberg said.

Goldberg said the price of feature films will range from $1.95 for older movies to $3.95 for new releases. Powell said he anticipated the price for song downloads will be “modestly under” the price of other services.

Powell said the arrangement with Cflix will continue after the pilot program ends if both parties are satisfied. While right now Yale thinks Cflix is the best partner, it is a fast-changing world, Powell said.

“One of the things we want to do is proceed not cautiously but judiciously,” Powell said.

While Yale is evaluating Cflix this year, it will receive information on other pilot programs through Educause, a nonprofit association which promotes the use of information technology. For example, when Pennsylvania State University — which is evaluating Napster — publishes its results, Educause will distribute this information to its members.

Cflix currently has similar pilot programs running at Duke University, Wake Forest University and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

This is a mock-up of the Yale Cflix Web site, which can be accessed as of Jan. 13. Starting in February, Yale students will be able to order video on-demand and music.
Courtesy CFLIX
This is a mock-up of the Yale Cflix Web site, which can be accessed as of Jan. 13. Starting in February, Yale students will be able to order video on-demand and music.

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