BY SHIRLEY BRADY
Comcast brought HDTV to Los Angeles last week. The launch was “timed so our customers will be able to watch the NBA finals with picture resolution that is up to six times sharper than analog,” says Debi Picciolo, regional SVP for Comcast Southern California. The service offers HBO, Showtime and local ABC, NBC, Fox and PBS affiliates. There’s a $5 monthly charge for the HD digital converter, a Motorola DCT-5100 set-top. Comcast also expanded the availability of its HSD product last week to more than 1,250 Radio Shack stores.
• • • Cox Communications launched Entertainment on Demand in Oklahoma City last month with a library of 250 hours of movies and hundreds of titles. Cox is planning to launch EOD in Las Vegas and it’s already available in Hampton Roads, Va., and San Diego, which last month introduced $4.95 double features, such as Notting Hill and About a Boy for Hugh Grant fans. Cox San Diego’s VOD promotion last month encouraged area residents to become “Block Busters” by crushing their videotapes under a 10-ton steamroller. Prizes included a 65-inch hi-def TV. • • • VOD is heating up north of the border. Rogers Cable signed a deal last week with MGM to distribute its titles — the first major Hollywood studio VOD deal with a Canadian MSO — and is expanding its rollout to Toronto’s suburbs this year. Shaw Cablesystems launched VOD and HDTV in Edmonton, its fifth VOD market. AOL brings broadband to Ontario this summer, the third province to get the service after Alberta and British Columbia. • • • Following last month’s Starz On Demand deals with Insight Communications and Charter Communications, Starz Encore Group’s president of distribution, Que Spaulding, shared highlights from DirecTV’s SOD trial that launched in August. He said over 86% of DirecTV SOD customers (now topping 10,000) reported a high level of satisfaction, while 75% said the service increased their satisfaction with DirecTV. The SOD subs used the service — which delivers up to five movies a week to DirecTV DVR with TiVo receivers — about 3.9 times per month in December, up from the 2.6 usage figure in October. • • • Comedy Central’s three- to six-minute-length “Quickies” are now outperforming the network’s regular-length shows for free-on-demand viewing by 5-to-1, according to the network’s VP of distribution development, Sandra Swain. In addition to short segments from South Park, Crank Yankers, Primetime Glick and other original shows, the Quickie library (now about a third of its VOD content) offers “sneak peeks” and behind-the-scenes footage, such as for its upcoming roast of Denis Leary. Its sneak peek for Trigger Happy was its most-watched FOD title in March, and starting this week FOD users can get a sneak peek at I’m With Busey, leading up to its network debut this month. • • • Programming from the Inspiration Networks is coming to VOD, which the company first tested in the mid-1990s with Bell Atlantic and SNET. Offering 20 hours of FOD titles, much of the “iVOD” content will be exclusive and original with the balance drawn from its cable networks, INSP (now in 20 million households), diginet I-Life and Hispanic diginet La Familia. TVN and In Demand will encode and distribute the inspirational content, which will initially focus on children and music programming. • • • The Anime Network’s VOD content launches this week to RCN’s Philadelphia digital customers, offering Japanese animation under its FOD menu. Anime, which recently expanded from its first VOD deployment on Comcast’s Philly system to its northern New Jersey systems, is ramping up plans to launch its digital cable network in a dozen major U.S. markets by the end of this year. • • • The Erotic Networks is launching Spanish-language content for VOD this fall. TEN On Demand — which launches today on the TVN platform — is currently available to over 6.7 million addressable households, or 95% of the VOD-enabled homes in the U.S. • • • HDTV deals: College Sports Television is contributing live sports (including a college football game of the week) in hi-def to In Demand’s INHD 24-hour HD service, which launches in September. The NCTC signed an affiliate agreement to launch HDNet and HDNet Movies, with RCN and Blue Ridge Communications coming online this month and Service Electric Cable and Midcontinent Communications launching the networks next month. ESPN HD is also getting more exposure in Best Buy stores next month. • • • Fuse (formerly muchmusic) launched Fuse On Your Mobile, enabled by Wink Interactive technology, for cell phone usage …WWE is offering its Bad Blood wrestling event free on PPV to returning military personnel on June 15, a welcome-home present with a retail value of $34.95.