Why Cable VOD Is About to Get a Lot Better… Really By Clint Stinchcomb, SVP, New Media for Discovery Communications In 2003, we began to speak in earnest with cable operators about providing file-served VOD. A typical affiliate-programmer conversation would include the affiliate partner explaining the value of VOD; that it was the wave of the future, full of opportunities for exposure and a way to get programming brands into multi-platform environments. Notwithstanding the persuasive powers of the visionary, bright, attractive and extremely articulate MSO programming heads, most content providers had at least a few nagging concerns. What happens if linear ratings decline? When will VOD enjoy a universally endorsed system of measurement? When will dynamic ad insertion become a reality? Hearing that in "about 12 months" all the stars would be aligned for VOD and the challenges would be overcome, many programmers across the cable landscape grabbed some deep breaths and headed to their legal departments to begin including VOD into broad affiliation agreements. VOD’s platform foundation was laid. Now, it’s July 2006, and though we’re still absent a robust system of ad measurement and dynamic insertion, I couldn’t be more convinced of the bright prospects for cable VOD. This bullishness has little to do with the projections of years past and everything to do with competition. "Nothing better than competition," Charlie Ergen once told me. "Makes you earn your stripes." This competition from both the programming side and the distribution side is why cable VOD is getting and will get a lot better. On the distribution side there will be exponentially more places to access on-demand video. Today, your primary options are cable VOD, satellite NVOD, DVRs and Apple iTunes. In the very near future, robust, far- reaching broadband (PC-centric) offerings from traditional cable and DBS operators will provide consumers with massive choice, convenience and control and yet another reason to secure a cable modem. Simultaneously, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, AOL, Movielink, Vongo, Akimbo, Disney and any company with meaningful traffic will likely offer video to be consumed on a PC or personal media player. The programmers best positioned to help cable operators drive Cable VOD are those with high-value, high-utility content, and/or those with the biggest hits—high-usage content. Programmers like Scripps, HBO and Discovery, with deep, broad programming rights, can provide useful content that will make people’s lives better and more enjoyable. Need new cabinets? Go to DIY On Demand. Need to plan a family trip to the beach with the best sand in the United States? Go to Travel Channel On Demand and check out Siesta Key, Fla. Content providers with narrow rights, focused solely on VOD, with no other platforms to leverage will have a tougher time. While there are challenges that still face us, there can be no doubt that the prognostication has come true—VOD is here and is the best way to enjoy content on demand. No PC or portable media player viewing experience can compete with the entertainment experience of watching TV on demand from your favorite chair with a simple remote control that always works. All the competition will make the entire product proposition better, but if we in the cable industry are going to lead, we need to continue to capitalize on our years of experience in programming and distribution and knowing our viewers. What better place than CTAM Summit to work toward these objectives? With Char Beales and the talented crew at CTAM, among other organizations, spearheading programs to provide creative and measurement guidelines for on-demand programming and advertising, we can look forward to a great VOD future……………………Really.