BY SHIRLEY BRADY
Cox Communications last week launched Totally Hollywood TV in San Diego. Part of the MSO’s FreeZone service, THTV, which Cox began trials of in late November, features movie previews of upcoming releases on VOD. “We’re very pleased with consumer response,” says Debby Mullin, VP of marketing and new media advertising. “We are especially enthusiastic about offering advertisers attractive interactive elements such as a permission-based response system.” Cablevision introduced THTV in its Long Island, Warwick Valley, N.Y., and Morris County, N.J., systems last summer.
••• Time Warner Cable’s 375,000 basic subscribers on six islands in Hawaii (a.k.a. its Oceanic system) are DVR-ready as of this week. Current digital subs can upgrade to a DVR-enabled receiver for free; there is a service charge of $9.95 a month. Customers can now record two programs simultaneously or watch one while recording another. The DVR set-top (a Scientific-Atlanta 8000) will automatically find and digitally record up to 40 hours of programming. Along with picture-in-picture and VCR functionality, live shows can be paused for up to an hour. ••• Comcast will expand its VOD offering in Greater Detroit to the majority of the five-county area it serves by July 31. As with other Comcast On Demand launches, there is no additional cost to digital subscribers beyond the $3.95 cost of new movie releases and $2.95 cost for older titles. The company serves over 1 million basic subscribers in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Flint and outlying areas. ••• What to do during those morning hours when nobody’s watching VOD? What about marketing the service during those down times. One idea making the rounds uses outbound telemarketing that gets subscribers to watch live on-screen demos on their TV sets. That’s what’s being pitched by Media Logic, which has been meeting with MSOs about its iSeeTV technology. The U.K. vendor launches its first U.S. trial next month at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. Starting March 31, about 4,000 students can skip a trip to the campus medical clinic by consulting with a live, on-screen nurse while conversing by phone from the dorm room. Media Logic EVP Glyn Radcliffe-Brine says ops are interested in using iSeeTV for interactive marketing and distance learning. He expects a trial with an MSO in the second quarter. ••• Mag Rack gets seasonal with Spring On Demand for an exclusive six-week run starting March 20. The first event-based programming for VOD usage will feature footage shot this month at Daytona Bike Week, the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, the Philadelphia Flower Show and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual shindig. Cablevision, Charter and Insight Communications are participating. ••• ESPN, Court TV and Starz all have souped up interactive, branded trucks to demonstrate their wares wherever large groups of people gather. Now an MSO is hitting the road. Time Warner Cable’s first interactive mobile unit, Digital Express, launched in Green Bay in December. Designed to demonstrate HDTV, VOD and DVR products to area residents, the unit will log plenty of miles this month. Upcoming events in northeast Wisconsin include the Valley Home Builders Show (March 6-9); the Tri-County Home Show (March 14-16); and the WEBAY Home and Garden Show (March 20-23). ••• Discovery is adding global panache to its HD Theater lineup, spending $65 million over the next five years on Atlas HD, a series of 30 two-hour high-definition documentary specials focusing on different countries. The first episode, featuring India, is scheduled to air in 2005. ••• Lousy weather equals great ratings — just ask the Weather Channel. But it’s also good for video-on-demand. During the Presidents’ Day snowstorm on Feb. 17, which dumped more than 2 feet of snow on New York City, Time Warner Cable’s movies-on-demand orders jumped 20%. Are you testing, launching, expanding or just plain creatively marketing VOD, HSD, HDTV, DVR, ITV, VoIP, a new IPG or another of cable’s acronyms? Send news and feedback to [email protected].