BY SHIRLEY BRADY
One of the most buzzed about presentations at last week’s CTAM Summit in Seattle was how to promote programming in an on-demand world, a session led by promo guru Lee Hunt. The buzz on Hunt was that he’s been tapped by Cablevision to help visualize its hi-def near-future at Rainbow Networks and Rainbow DBS. Although Hunt declined to confirm any rumors, citing a non-disclosure agreement, he was keen last week to elaborate on how to brand and promote VOD content. “The challenges in the on-demand world are you’ve got no avails, no schedule, and there is no appointment viewing,” says Hunt. “A lot of the answers already exist in the linear world, where people typically skip breaks anyway.” He points to ideas such as imbedding promotional messages in programming content, such as on-screen bugs and animation with sound effects (such as the knife-swishing teaser for Nip/Tuck across the lower third of FX programming) to direct viewers to other linear or on-demand content. “It’s a real fragile line” before those on-screen tools become so cluttered that the viewer gets lost, he adds. “People might get fed up if there’s too much going on, and there could be a backlash if it’s not handled well.” The other challenge: “That paradigm shift from linear viewing to on-demand viewing is huge, and it’s really tough for people to understand. That’s why [DVR] companies like TiVo are having such a tough time. What are the buttons that are going to get the viewer to make that leap? The biggest driver will always be the content: if it’s not compelling, it doesn’t matter how cool or snazzy the technology is, it’s just not going to be that interesting.”
••• Cablevision is now offering VOD content for Hispanics. Its new iO en Español offering, a $14.95 package of 30 channels that started rolling out to digital customers last week, includes World Picks: Latino, a 20-hour package of continually refreshed Spanish-language on-demand programming from around the world. All titles and program descriptions are listed in Spanish, representing “a major step forward in offering customized and relevant content to specific audiences on demand,” says Cablevision VP of digital product strategy Matthew Weiss. “The Hispanic and Latino market is emerging as a gigantic force that has a need for programming…and in the last 18 months there has been an emergence of networks, so we are taking the opportunity now to provide a very affordable package accessible in our markets. This allows us to package [VOD] within iO en Español, let [Hispanic] customers understand what digital is all about, and then understand what VOD is all about and the benefits for them.” The iO digital service is currently available to more than 3.8 million homes in the New York area and will reach 4.4 million homes by the end of this year. ••• Attention marketers: the phrase “Personal Video Recorder” and its acronym “PVR” are now trademarked by TiVo in the U.S. That prompted C Cubed’s The PVR Monitor to be renamed The DVR Monitor, according to C Cubed principal Jennifer Choate. Another no-no, in TiVo’s law books: using the expression “TiVo-like” in describing digital video recording functionality, a phrase that has been creeping into the vernacular, much to the company’s dismay. So stick with the term “DVR” for marketing and make a lawyer happy. ••• Discovery HD Theater this month premieres the pilot of Hollywood Spotlight, a monthly 30-minute program produced in hi-def featuring some of the month’s top movie trailers. The high-def movie showcase is hosted by Erin Carmen, a Washington, D.C., disc jockey who this month promotes new releases such as Seabiscuit. August and September titles being promoted in Spotlight include Jeepers Creepers, Matchstick Man, Out of Time and Second Hand Lions. DHDT introduces a second new original show next month: Screening Room, a 30-minute insider’s look at developments in HDTV, hosted by Discovery’s own HD insider Clint Stinchcomb, SVP and GM of Discovery HD Theater. Discovery Networks programming being added to DHDT in August and September include new episodes of Trading Spaces and The Jeff Corwin Experience, plus the final episode of the Wild Nights series on Aug. 18. The first Atlas HD special on India begins principal photography next month, with a premiere slated for late 2004. Hosted by a team of six adventurers, the first two-hour special in the $65 million series will combine aerial photography and computer graphics to bring alive Indian history, including retracing Mahatma Gandhi’s famous march to the sea and a virtual walk through the second Taj Mahal palace, which was designed but never built. ••• The High Def Expo takes place this week in Los Angeles. Billed as the only regular event for all things high definition, the festive HD confab is being held from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on July 31 at Dodger Stadium. More than 800 people have already signed up for the evening of educational lectures and discussions along with the latest in HD technology (not to mention Dodger giveaways and food and beverages from local burger fave In-N-Out). The HD get-together is designed for folks on the production side and industry types interested in learning more about what’s happening in the world of high definition. For more information go to www.hdexpo.net, which will shortly be adding information on upcoming High Def Expos that should include get-togethers on the east coast.