SyncTV has opened a trial of its programme download platform. Based on open standards, the service will work on Windows, Mac and Linux personal computers and in the future on televisions and portable players. The service has apparently been in development for two years and grew out of work at Pioneer labs in the United States.

The SyncTV programme library will be arranged in channels. Once subscribed to a particular channel for a monthly fee, viewers can download any title on that channel, in many cases every episode of every season of a particular programme. Some channels will alternatively provide programmes on a pay-per-download basis.

The SyncTV application promises an open platform for programme downloads.

The company appears to be making a play for the technical high ground, saying that the audio and video quality will be “the highest available” through online download. The minimum quality will be comparable to the same material on DVD and where possible programming will be available in high definition. Programming will also be available in 5.1 channel surround sound.

“We are absolutely passionate about giving consumers the highest-quality, best-value and most flexible TV download service available anywhere,” said John Gildred, the president of SyncTV.

Programmes can be played back on up to five home devices. In the future, users will be able to specify up to ten additional portable devices.

SyncTV has developed an open platform and says it will make its protocols and data formats available to developers. The SyncTV service is specifically designed to work directly on consumer audio-visual products.

For all its claims of being open and unlimited, the service will still employ digital rights management. It will use Marlin, an open-standards digital rights management system. Marlin is the result of a collaboration between Intertrust, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung and Sony. Its mission is to develop specifications for an interoperable digital rights management platform. It has also announced a bridge with the Open Mobile Alliance OMA 2.0 specification.

SyncTV is a privately held company that grew out of the advanced research labs of Pioneer Electronics. The company is based in San Jose, California.

As with similar services, the success of SyncTV will be determined by the quality of programming that it can attract. Currently, much of the programming in the trial is aimed at children. The highest profile programming is from Showtime. Notably, Showtime programmes will be available on a pay-per-download rather than a subscription basis.