Cable Operators

In Demand Delivering For A Quarter Century

12/06/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

Over the last 25 years, In Demand has
morphed, merged and intermingled with various
partners and investors and undertaken
several iterations. But the company’s mission
has always remained constant: To facilitate the
delivery of pay-per-view and on demand programming
effectively and cost-efficiently.

Last year, In Demand generated about $1.3
billion in retail revenue for its owners and affiliates.
Th e company delivered more than 30,000
hours of content, resulting in about 200 million
paid transactions.

“We provide significant efficiencies for our
owners and affiliates,” In Demand president
and CEO Bob Benya said. “We also provide
speed-to-market solutions with new delivery
mechanisms and by working closely with the
cable operators and CableLabs on the creation
of standards and specifi cations. We have the
highest reliability rating in the industry when
it comes to delivery of programming.”

The movies-on-demand category has
mushroomed, according to Thomas Gewecke,
president of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution.
Case in point: About one-third (30%) of
all movie rentals this year will be via video-ondemand.
And that number is expected to keep
growing each year.

But there’s more to what In Demand does
than just uploading and downloading programming
to MSOs’ receive sites. The company
— which today is owned by Comcast,
Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications
and Bright House Networks — handles contract
negotiations and administration, program
acquisition, encoding and content management,
marketing support, back-end financial
processing and website management. It produces
almost 10,000 pieces of media materials
each year including about 3,000 cross-channel
promotions, 6,000 trailers, 400 free on-demand
preview pieces and six weekly barkers.

DEALMAKERS

In Demand currently negotiates programming
deals with about 150 content suppliers
including every major Hollywood studio, all
key independent studios, Major League Baseball,
the National Basketball Association, the
National Hockey League and Major League
Soccer, as well as the Ultimate Fighting Championship,
World Wrestling Entertainment and
the major boxing promoters.

In Demand delivers that content via five
transponders across three satellites, 40 channels
and two VOD carriers. It now reach 53
million subscribers in the U.S., Canada and the
Caribbean. It also handles all copyrights and
fee collection, making it easier for operators
to pay for their on-demand programming and
easier for suppliers, because they’re collecting
fees from just one entity.

“In Demand has been a great partner for
a long time,” Gewecke said. “We have separate
relationships with each of the MSOs but we
like working with In Demand. They are easy to work with and offer a great product. They are
forward thinking and innovative.”

In Demand has been pivotal in pushing
and standardizing various technological advancements
including high-definition TV
and now 3DTV.

Warner Bros. was the first studio to offer
day-and-date releases with DVD sales
and rentals and In Demand was instrumental
in convincing other studios to do the same,
Gewecke said. In Demand will offer over 100
day-and-date movie releases this year.
“They are on-demand evangelists.”

BALANCING ACT

In Demand has spent a lot of time evaluating
what works and what doesn’t, Gewecke said.
It is also adept at balancing the needs of consumers,
owners, affiliates and suppliers.

Just as In Demand was instrumental in the
development of high-definition VOD programming,
the company is now playing a pivotal
role in the development and delivery of
3D programming. Case in point: In Demand
delivered The Masters golf tournament in 3D
this year — its first such offering, but certainly
not its last.

The company is also dipping its toes into
the interactive arena. In November, In Demand
and itaas announced the development of three
interactive applications to promote MSOs’
transactional products. The companies built the
applications with an eye towards leveraging the
power of EBIF and tru2way to become new
marketing tools that operators can use to promote
on-demand and pay-per-view programming.

But while In Demand is expanding its horizons
with new applications and offerings, movies
remain the company’s bread and butter.

Thanda Belker, executive vice president of
pay TV at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment,
has worked with In Demand for about
a decade. She works closely with programming,
marketing and scheduling teams.

“Working with In Demand has been a key advantage for our studio,” she said. “In Demand
is able to navigate multiple MSO interests and
negotiate on behalf of the largest cable footprint.
Together, we have launched new, innovative
products like VOD, Vutopia and online as
well as supported In Demand’s other content
explorations, such as Mojo HD and hotels.”

VUTOPIAN DREAMS

In Demand created and launched Vutopia,
an online subscription VOD service for authenticated
customers. Cox
has launched Vutopia in all
its systems and TWC is currently
introducing it in some
of its systems. The company
also built and manages the
Online Video Store, a huge library of product
with currently over 29,000 assets from both
film and television suppliers.

“We expect to see more industry participation
from In Demand going forward,” Cable &
Telecommunications Association for Marketing
president and CEO Char Beales said. “The
spark of energy that Bob [Benya] has brought
since he came on board full-time has been great
for the company and for the industry. We look
forward to partnering with them again on the
next theatrical movies-on-demand campaign.”

In Demand has seen a lot of change in the
last quarter-century. It traces its lineage back to
Viewer’s Choice, which launched in 1985 as a
single pay-per-view channel available to 17,000
customers.

In November 1987, Viewer’s Choice merged
with operator-owned Pay-Per-View Network
Inc., which made American Television
& Communications, Continental Cablevision,
Cox Communications, Advance/Newhouse
Communications and TeleCable owners of
the merged company. Comcast would become
In Demand’s largest shareholder, through its
acquisitions of MediaOne Group and AT&T
Broadband.

“We started by offering events, but quickly
figured out that movies were going to make the
business really fly,” said Dan Cavallo, Bright
House Networks, a longtime board member of
In Demand.

STEPPING IN THE RING

HBO launched TVKO, its PPV boxing
unit, in 1991 and In Demand has played a
pivotal role in delivering boxing events ever
since, said HBO senior VP of sports operations
and PPV Mark Taffett. HBO produced
around 170 boxing events, generating 49.6
million buys and about $2.4 billion in revenue.
In Demand has generated about half of
those buys.

Regardless of what lies ahead, all the players
are looking forward to the ride. “It’s been
and will continue to be a great partnership
and we look forward to celebrating
future milestones together,” Sony’s
Belker said.

This article was edited on Dec. 8 to correct Thomas Gewecke's name.

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