Cable Operators

Strauss: VOD Platform Gives Cable an Edge

3/20/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

Denver— Despite issues involving consumer education and its economic model, the video-on-demand platform will be a boon for cable going forward, said Comcast Corp. vice president of VOD content development and management Matt Strauss.

“This is just a moment in time,” he said last week at a meeting of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Rocky Mountain chapter, held at the Comcast Media Center here. “We need to treat VOD as a new destination. We are on the brink of a new revolution.”

Strauss believes the economic model will evolve beyond transactional and premium SVOD in the next few years. “Advertising, sponsorship and commerce will be model,” Strauss said.

The advertising won’t consist of traditional 15- and 30-second spots. Because VOD affords fast-forwarding, Strauss said, new forms of advertising will crop up, including product placement, underwriting, long-form advertising, sponsorships and graphic overlays.

Once dynamic ad insertion for VOD is developed, he added, local on-demand advertising will grow as a revenue category.

Using data compiled by Rentrak Corp., Comcast will soon begin providing VOD programmers with usage figures for their content, Strauss said.

Programmers will see information in four areas: number of VOD enabled set-tops, total views, unique set-tops viewing a program, and total minutes viewed. Armed with that information, he said, programmers will be better able to sell VOD advertising to Madison Avenue.

His division at Comcast, titled “Select On Demand,” has launched 12 networks so far, and plans to start 30 more this year. Among those up and running: Dating on Demand, a pre-kindergarten service, Home Improvement and Anime.

Strauss said the combined viewership of Comcast’s Select programming surpassed the combined viewership of basic-cable VOD product in February.

Comcast plans to expand its popular Dating on Demand service by allowing customers with Webcams to submit their own video profiles. And it will be testing a real-estate on-demand service next month.

Other areas of “user-generated content” that Comcast will examine include jobs, auctions and Web logs, he said.

Strauss said Comcast generated 70 million VOD “views” in February, well on the way to generating 1 billion views for the year. In Philadelphia, 60% of digital set-top subscribers used VOD in February. At those rates, he said, the percentage of set-tops watching on-demand will outpace some cable networks’ linear ratings. “This strategy is about adding value to cable and differentiating cable from satellite,” he said.

September