By Shirley Brady Will America’s love affair with fast cars help speed adoption of VOD? Universal Studios Pay-Per-View and Mag Rack sure hope so. They’re teaming up-a first-to promote the release of Universal’s 2 Fast 2 Furious on VOD this month. Mag Rack’s Your Next Car VOD magazine has added related segments and promos to drive (pun intended) its viewers to order the street-racing flick on VOD. USPPV, for its part, is offering cable affiliates (including Insight Communications’ Columbus, Ohio, and Louisville, Ky., markets) marketing support including direct mail for the cross-promotion. Adelphia is getting busy in Buffalo, N.Y., and Los Angeles. Earlier this month it launched HDTV in western New York state with WIVB-TV (CBS) and WNEW-TV plus Showtime in hi-def ($7.95 a month to lease the HD set-top), in addition to DVR service late next month at a cost of $7.95 for the box. In December it launches VOD in Southern California, Adelphia’s third VOD market after Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Its 63,000 Southern California subscribers will get Adelphia OnDemand’s triple play of movies on demand, SVOD (HBO and Showtime) plus free kids programming, music and short-form entertainment. In Demand is handling content while Concurrent, N2 Broadband, BigBand Networks and Internet Photonics share the tech duties in L.A. Just as MTV gets ready to bust a move into the music downloading business, Comcast is getting digi-with-it now by offering its HSD subs a Real deal. A co-branded website accessible from the Comcast.net home page will entice high-speed customers to check out RealNetworks’ Rhapsody subscription music service. Through the end of December, they can access the service for seven days free and receive 10 free song downloads (that’s "burns" to you, daddy-o) that normally sell for 79 cents a track. Real will handle the billing for any of Comcast’s nearly 5 million high-speed customers who choose to sign up for the $9.95 per month online jukebox during the test. (Watch for more co-marketing in ’04.) Real also tapped Intel to integrate Rhapsody in home stereos, which will help broadband users link their PC and music systems. About 40,000 Comcast digital customers in Baltimore can now test their trivia knowledge against Susquehanna Communications subscribers in Pennsylvania and Time Warner Cable customers in Portland, Maine, thanks to Comcast’s new technical trial of Buzztime’s ITV digital games channel in Maryland’s Harford and Howard counties. "Right now we’re still in the employee-only [beta] phase, and we hope by the holidays to be in all Comcast homes in the two counties," says Buzztime president and COO Tyrone Lam. Far from just a trivial pursuit, Lam says the free service (which attracts non-gamers, as shown in recent research in Portland) will offer other types of interactivity including cards and board- and arcade-style games. The company is also ramping up a subscription-based pay-to-play service and plans to introduce "advergaming," expanding on its early test with The Sporting News to integrate an advertiser’s brand with its games. Cox Communications is making good on its promise to offer HDTV to 85% of its homes passed by the end of the year. Earlier this month Cox launched HDTV in its Hampton Roads, Va., system, where its hi-def lineup now includes local CBS and PBS plus HBO and Showtime’s HD feeds for free, while a package of ESPN and Discovery HD Theater goes for $5.95 a month. (It launched HD in tandem with VOD, with its Entertainment on Demand product now available to the market’s digital homes.) The company also just added Network Associates’ McAfee SpamKiller, a move to help its high-speed customers everywhere turn back the spam. Plenty of HD shop talk coming up. CTAM’s HDTV Council is hosting an HDTV and retail panel on Dec. 2 during the Western Show; ESPN is sponsoring. The cable contingent hitting CES in Las Vegas will be out in force at a free session Jan. 9 on the topic. Debating the state of HD content and delivery will be Cablevision chairman Chuck Dolan, ESPN president George Bodenheimer, Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt, HDNet chairman and president Mark Cuban, DirecTV chairman and CEO Eddy Hartenstein and EchoStar Communications chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen. Are you testing, launching, expanding or just plain creatively marketing VOD, HSD, HDTV, DVR, ITV, VoIP or any other cable acronym? Send feedback to sbrady@pbimedia.com.

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