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Making Pictures @Home
By Steve Hoffenberg, 1999

There are Internet service providers (ISPs), and there are broadband Internet service providers. One such provider of high-speed Internet access into the home environment is aptly named @Home network. @Home uses the physical infrastructure (i.e. the coaxial cables) of its cable television partners to provide Internet access to 460,000 subscribers, a number that is expected to double by the end of 1999. The company says that its 18 cable TV partners collectively have "exclusive access" to more than half the homes in North America, 15 million of which are in areas that already have two-way communications equipment installed in the cable companies' central facilities. And that's not even counting any potential additional households that might be garnered through AT&T's proposed acquisition of cable TV and broadband Internet access provider MediaOne. (AT&T already owns Tele-Communications, Inc. or TCI, which is the single largest shareholder in @Home Networks.

While the @Home broadband service is currently available for use only with personal computers as the access device, given the cable TV coaxial cables that reach into @Home households, we expect set top boxes to become an important source of subscribers to the service. The company confirms that a set top box version of the service is in development, slated for deployment in late 1999. The primary competitor for @Home in the set top box realm would be WebTV, which says it has 700,000 subscribers.

Monthly charges for @Home service are typically $39.95 to $44.95, depending on the local cable provider. @Home Networks gets 35 percent of those fees, with the reminder retained by the cable provider.

Internet Content Provider
Unlike most Internet service providers, @Home not only provides Internet access, but also Internet content. To enable this, the @Home service requires installation of a customized version of Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator web browsers, which makes @Home's content appear to be seamlessly integrated with the rest of the World Wide Web. Some of the @Home content, such as CNN video clips, Associated Press news, and Bloomberg financial updates, are available elsewhere on the Web, but on @Home, they are repackaged and reformatted for broadband access and easy navigation. Other content is generated by @Home's own staff of reporters and editors.

In January 1999, @Home Networks acquired Excite Inc., the creators of www.excite.com web portal site that the company draws over 17 million unique viewers per month (to see related Press Release, click here.) The Excite acquisition, valued at $6.7 billion, resoundingly shows @Home's intentions to delve deeper into content, not just access.

Making Pictures
One existing homegrown content feature of @Home is called Making Pictures, a site dedicated to the topic of photography in its many incarnations: film, digital, amateur, professional, etc. The Making Pictures, site was jointly developed by @Home and Intel. It includes instructional tips, galleries of amateur and professional images, and product buying guides (see photo below). A recently-announced new feature will allow users to directly search half-a-million pictures from the Corbis online archive, then order photo prints, cards and gift items with the images.

The Making Pictures photo super-site is the brainchild of @Home's Evan Nisselson, Manager of Content Development for the site. Nisselson is retro-futuristic type, who, despite running one of the most technically advanced web sites devoted to imaging, still shoots 35mm black and white film with a 1960's vintage Nikon F, an all-mechanical, all-manual SLR. Nisselson told Lyra that the goals of Making Pictures are to promote sharing of images online, to facilitate integration of imaging technologies, and to provide an education al environment in which users can find answers to all their photo and imaging questions.

Making Pictures is an excellent example of how the Internet can effectively serve educational and information purposes for users, while simultaneously providing qualified and interested "eyeballs" and page hits to Internet advertisers. Given the recent announcements of forthcoming digital photography portal sites for the Web, such as Photohighway.com, PhotoIsland.com, and PictureBay.com, the concept of a photography-oriented web site is not unique. What is unique about the Making Pictures site, however, is that every single user has broadband access. That makes possible a richer level of content, including streaming video for instructional segments and interviews with famous photographers, not to mention the ability to rapidly view, download, and upload digital image files. It's akin to an interactive TV channel devoted to photography-on demand.

Nisselson told us that Making Pictures currently generates about 20,000 page hits per week, which is not overwhelming, but it is significant considering that availability of @Home is geographically limited to 68 cities at present. Despite this limited availability, which is rapidly expanding as we speak, households that subscribe to @Home, and especially those that regularly view Making Pictures, must be considered among the best candidates for digital imaging products and services. The eyeballs that Making Pictures delivers are golden, and their numbers are bound to grow dramatically.

© Copyright 2003, Evan Nisselson