Our cover subject, Dan Ronayne, had a teacher who was fond of saying "repetition is the handmaiden of education." Now that Ronayne is EVP and GM of Rainbow Media’s skools franchise, he is in a position to prove that axiom on a daily basis.
Ronayne and Rainbow are announcing a large push in the company’s free VOD offerings, rebranding the multiple free VOD offerings in Mag Rack as lifeskool, plus adding series, all designed to enhance viewers’ lives [see page 14].
But doesn’t every programmer, to some extent, say his/her content enhances the viewer’s life? Yes, but Rainbow’s VOD skools — lifeskool, sportskool and musicskool — do so literally. Take the new lifeskool series The Cars You Want, hosted by Ezra Dyer of The New York Times. Instead of providing pure entertainment, as Mag Rack’s car and bike shows once did, Dyer will inform viewers about becoming more enlightened auto buyers. Over in sportskool, sweet-swinging new Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn teaches sport’s most difficult task — hitting a pitched baseball. At musicskool they teach a different type of swing. And unlike school, at skool there’s no embarrassment if you don’t get it in one try. Repeating a lesson, or just a bit, is a remote-control click away.
While CTAM says 54% of digital cable subs ordered programming on demand last year, up from 49% in ’05 and 35% in ’04, VOD is available in just a fraction of cable homes. Still, skool’s content can be a difference maker for cable. But can enough ads be sold on the platform to reap profits? The ad community has myriad reporting and convenience issues with VOD. It also says the size of the VOD audience is too small for national campaigns. By 2009 the question of audience size should be solved. A worthy goal for cable operators would be to smooth the reporting and convenience issues within a few years.
Other things that repeat in cable, reorgs and job cuts, don’t get easier to digest, especially when friends are involved. Thus a fond farewell to a classy trio at Discovery Networks: U.S. Networks president Billy Campbell, HR chief Pandit Wright and Animal Planet chief Maureen Smith. We’ll miss them.