BY SHIRLEY BRADY
Cox Communications San Diego promoted its Entertainment on Demand service with a unique Independence Day promotion in partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution. To promote the VOD premiere of Antwone Fisher on July 4, the real Fisher — who was stationed in San Diego, the movie’s setting, while in the Navy — threw out the first pitch at the Padres game that day. Fisher also visited Cox HQ and was interviewed by the folks at the system’s local origination channel.
••• Time Warner Cable’s Austin division continues using its Central Texas on Demand VOD channel in creative ways. Features this month on the service include footage of the Blue Man group to promote an upcoming local performance, University of Texas Performing Arts Center concerts and News 8 Austin’s telecast of the Austin Symphony’s Independence Day fireworks. ••• Comcast is touting its enhanced broadband channels on Comcast.net, including movie trailers, news, photos, games and more. Cablevision’s Optimum Online portal added a summer travel section including tips on traveling with kids and local getaways. New York agency Chisholm-Mingo is also ramping up a multicultural marketing campaign for Optimum Online. Time Warner Cable’s Columbus division added a dash of Hollywood to Road Runner, loading its local website with new movie trailers, reviews, entertainment news and extensive movie showtimes. ••• Time Warner Cable launched DVR service in its Los Angeles and Desert Cities divisions July 1. Its New York City DVR offering is now available in selected homes, and according to its local website is ramping up for a full-market launch in September to all its New York area customers ($6.95 to digital subscribers or $9.95 on an a la carte basis to non-digital customers). ••• Cox plans to introduce HD service in Tulsa this summer, featuring local ABC and NBC affiliates at no extra charge. Discovery HD and ESPN HD will be offered for $4.95 each or $8.95 for both; the Motorola set-top will be leased for $9.95 a month or may be purchased from a local retailer. Cablevision’s iO digital service is slated to enhance its current HD tier with HD on-demand content (over 700 movies) next month. ••• Time Warner Cable’s Charlotte and Maine divisions have launched Discovery HD Theater, which TWC is rolling out across the country this summer. ••• Competition watch: RCN last week launched home networking in greater Boston, its first deployment nationwide. The service costs $14.95 a month and includes a new cable modem with integrated networking gateway. Bundling cable with VOD, HSD and long-distance telephone service is paying off for Altrio Communications, which was rated best television provider by the city of Pasadena last week. It gave Altrio a 94% satisfaction level, compared with a 58% rating for Charter. ••• Beta Research measured consumer demand for VOD networks for the first time, releasing the results last week. HBO on Demand topped the 14 VOD networks among total adults in the survey, followed by the History Channel on Demand, ESPN on Demand (No. 1 among men) and HGTV on Demand (No. 1 among women). (See page 25 for other Beta results on emerging, digital and midsize networks.) ••• Television critics attending the TCA Tour in Hollywood digested some HD programming news and insights over lunch last week. HBO and Cinemax are preparing an 18-hour daily dose of HD content, Discovery is preparing a five-minute promo on HD while ESPN will complete its state-of-the-art hi-def studio in Bristol, Conn. by April. Critics also received details on Bravo HD+, launching July 31. Highlights include concerts, The West Wing, Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai, the 2003 Triple Crown and the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. ••• HDNet is offering a free weekend preview of the Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America (Aug. 1-3), featuring live and original programming from “the largest high-definition auto race broadcast in history.” Other summer programming highlights on HDNet include MLS games, three new reports from Iraq this month on HDNet World Report and a new ten-part series, Chick Corea: Rendezvous in New York. ••• Discovery HD Theater this week premieres Journey to the Center of the Earth, a two-part documentary running July 14-15. Secrets of Hawaii’s National Parks premieres July 21… The Anime Network is joining College Sports Television and Crown Media in providing programming to In Demand’s INHD and INHD2 hi-def channels which launch in September. Anime is providing a weekly program for both services, including Spriggan and You’re Under Arrest: The Movie.