BY SHIRLEY BRADY
Comcast enhanced its VOD lineup in New Jersey with real time news feeds from NBC. About 725,000 subscribers in the state can now access NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Dateline NBC and Meet the Press. Local content for the NBC News on Demand lineup includes WNBC’s Today in New York morning news show, from 5 to 7a.m., and the local Channel 4 nightly newscast from 6 to 6:30 p.m. This marks the second launch of NBC News on Demand for Comcast, following a launch in Philadelphia in late 2001.
• • • Cox Northern Virginia is launching ESPN HD this week for $5.99/month. The sports service joins the market’s five other HD channels, which include HBO, Showtime, the local NBC and ABC affiliates and Discovery HD. With the May 15 launch of ESPN HD, the system is also dropping the price of the Discovery HD service from $6.99 to $5.99. Last month Northern Virginia became the second Cox system to launch DVR, following a February launch to its 96,000 customers in Gainesville, Fla., which the company says has already exceeded pre-launch expectations. • • • DVR is now available in Time Warner Cable’s Columbus, Ohio, system, following a beta launch with 400 employees. Priced at $6.95 on top of a $5.95 monthly rental for a Scientific-Atlanta Explorer 8000 set-top box, DVR service became available last week in Columbus and is now expanding to outlying areas in central Ohio. The company is also looking to bring DVR service to Wall Street, media mavens and Madison Avenue types this summer, with customer service reps now indicating that July will be the likely launch for DVR service by TWCNYC. • • • Insight Communications this week launches VOD service in Springfield and Peoria, Ill. With a $9.95/month kids VOD tier now in place — and system marketing now gearing up to spread the word — Insight’s corporate head office in New York is now putting the final touches on a sports and information VOD tier. • • • Microsoft TV’s interactive programming guide received its first deployment last week. The IPG (based on technology licensed from Gemstar-TV Guide) is now available to about 22,000 subscribers south of Portland, Ore., where Uvision and Willamette Broadband both rolled out the IPG. A significant step forward for Microsoft’s dealings with the cable industry, its new IPG for thin client digital set-tops was introduced at last year’s NCTA national show in New Orleans, with the Uvision and Willamette deal announced at the Western Show in December. Earlier this year Microsoft introduced version 1.5 of its IPG, which supports Spanish and Portuguese, is compatible with VOD systems from SeaChange and Concurrent, and runs on widely deployed set-tops including Motorola’s DCT-1000, DCT-1200 and DCT-2000 boxes. • • • Following last weekend’s face-off between the Dallas Mavericks — owned by HDNet founder Mark Cuban — and the Sacramento Kings in game three of the Western Conference semifinals, ESPN HD’s remaining NBA playoff schedule moves east. ESPN HD has the Eastern Conference final game one on May 20, game three on May 24 and game four on May 26, while sister company ABC Sports handles hi-def duties for game two on May 22. ESPN Motion, its broadband video clip service, is also gaining traction. Users must download a proprietary software program to set up the clips with better definition than streamed video. The company declines to give the number of users who have downloaded the program, but says young males in particular have really taken to the free service. High-speed Internet users comprise about 70% of ESPN’s online fans. • • • San Francisco is the most broadband-wired city in the U.S., with Tampa, Boston, Houston and Charlotte, N.C., rounding out the top five in AOL’s first-ever survey of broadband usage, released last week. The 18-market online survey of about 3,600 adults 18 and over found that 49% of Internet users surveyed connect via broadband at home and spend an average 23 hours a week online, or three more hours than dial-up Internet users. Broadband customers also feel more productive and feel they save an average 3.5 hours a week because of high-speed Internet. In San Francisco, where broadband users have been using high-speed connections longer than any other market (just under two years), 41% of broadband subscribers say the Internet is now their primary source for news and information, while 68% say they feel “better informed” thanks to broadband. • • • Toshiba’s DST3100 HD receiver for DirecTV will be available in July for a suggested $649.95 at retail. It features up to four customized on-screen menus and can connect multiple TV sets. A remote control feature supports both IR (infrared) and RF (radio frequency) capabilities — so a receiver placed in the living room can be controlled from anywhere in the house — even upstairs.