Start-up networks looking to prove their worth to cable operators can pick up a few tips by checking out Anime Network’s website, where visitors can click on their local cable provider to see what’s new on VOD each month. Anime titles coming to VOD in December include episodes of the series Steam Detectives and Wedding Peach, and a movie called Martian Successor Nadesico. Not exactly household names, but more desirable to young male fans of anime, perhaps, than Desperate Housewives. Anime Network is hoping Comcast rewards it for its success at promoting its on-demand releases and, by extension, VOD service itself. The network is thisclose to completing its carriage agreement for a linear launch on Comcast, the operator that first launched it on video on demand in December 2002. When that deal is done, Anime will be the first network to go from VOD to linear on Comcast. "We’ve been negotiating our contract with them for some time now, and I think we’ve got all the deal points finalized. We’re really just waiting for a signature and a green light," says Anime Network president Kevin Corcoran, who hopes to have that linear launch by the second quarter. Comcast declined to comment on the negotiations. Offering VOD and linear together is "the magic combination," says Cathy Rasenberger of Rasenberger Media, which handles Anime’s distribution. "Fans get new programming on the 24/7 channel and can watch something over again on VOD." Anime is one of the most popular offerings on VOD. "We’re consistently No. 1 in views per user on Comcast, we’re among the top five on Time Warner’s VOD offering and we’re consistently one of Cablevision’s most popular on-demand offerings," says Corcoran. "On Comcast, viewers watch on average 10 Anime Network programs a month," adds Rasenberger, "while on Cablevision, where we have an SVOD product, it’s as high as 25 programs per month." With the brand’s first 24/7 channel launch already in hand—it joined Insight’s digital tier in May—Corcoran and Co. want to help Anime’s VOD and linear affiliates better tap into the elusive 18-to-34-year-old male viewers who make up the core fan base. The network is available on VOD (and linear, with Insight) in 55 cities and 11 million homes. Corcoran’s seen some progress in how on demand is marketed by cable systems, but he thinks there’s room for improvement. He urges affiliates to piggyback on his network’s marketing efforts, which have helped make anime a $4.5 billion industry in the U.S. "One of the things that we’ve been doing to promote our linear and VOD channel is tying in with anime events," he says. "We exhibit at anime conventions such as the recent one we did in Atlanta where we brought the local cable system personnel into our booth and actively pushed new digital subscribers. Over a weekend, with about 1,500 people at the convention, the local system was able to sign up about 100 new subs." For that particular promotion, held during the Anime Weekend Atlanta convention in September, the network gave anime DVDs to attendees who signed up for Comcast’s digital service. New digital subscribers were also entered in a contest to win a karaoke machine. Corcoran hopes to see more local affiliates tap into the channel’s campus-based anime club program, which features five or six events a month, and its retail partnerships. "In addition to our college and university outreach, we also coordinate with the local cable affiliates as part of our retailer presence," says Corcoran, whose retail partners include Best Buy and Wal-Mart. "We do in-store promotions and sweepstakes, we’re selling DVDs and manga [comic books] and merchandise, and we’d love to help our affiliates have more of a presence in those retail stores with us to get people to sign up to get the Anime Network on digital cable."

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