News

VOD Bites for Discovery, Comcast

7/17/2006 5:13 AM Eastern

Discovery Channel is taking its first plunge into the video-on-demand premiere waters with its big programming fish in tow.

The network developed an extensive multiplatform campaign with Comcast around its 19th annual “Shark Week” stunt, running this year from July 30-Aug. 4, the centerpiece of which is the premiere of an uncut show 10 days before its debut on the linear network. The VOD premiere of Shark Rebellion will be flanked by an array of custom short- and long-form content that will be available to the cable operator’s on-demand subscribers.

“The goal is to take our VOD to the next level,” said Jennifer Dangar, vice president of new-media distribution for Discovery Networks U.S., noting that the programmer has been making some 75 hours of VOD content available to operators on a monthly basis.

“We wanted to provide something unique and show that we’re becoming more aggressive with strategy and tactics in the VOD space,” she added.

In fact, the Silver Spring, Md.-headquartered programmer will take a deeper dive. Dangar said Discovery Networks plans to make VOD programming premieres a monthly occurrence, working with more operators and showcasing content from its stable of networks on a rotating basis. TLC will be up in August, she added, declining to disclose what fare will debut on the platform.

Moreover, Dangar said, the game plan also calls for the company to offer VOD premieres within the context of multiplatform specials -- akin to what it’s doing with Shark Week -- on a quarterly basis. At press time, Discovery was fleshing out details for a push behind the debut of China Revealed, the first installment of its ambitious 60-episode HD series, Atlas (www.multichannel.com/article/CA6352212.html?display=Breaking+News).

As for the Shark Week VOD play, the programming isn’t chum. Available to Comcast VOD subscribers in an uncut version July 20, almost two weeks before its Aug. 3 linear debut, Shark Rebellion looks at why there have been 45 attacks over the past decade off the Brazilian city of Recife when there had only been one the previous 75 years.

Also accessible under the Shark Week button on Comcast’s Discovery on Demand folder: behind-the-scenes shorts; 10 exclusive episodic vignettes under the “Shark Bites” banner; a video diary from stunt host Mike Rowe (Discovery’s Dirty Jobs); and four “classic” long-form Shark Week shows.

After premiering on Discovery, additional Shark Week 2006 episodes will swim to Comcast VOD.

Discovery’s “Dive Into Shark Week” campaign also extends to portal Comcast.net (www.comcast.net/comcast.html), which will feature a specially created Shark Week microsite.

Local ad-sales efforts -- including sweepstakes and a host of premiums and promotional materials, as well as the MSO’s commitment to running hundreds of cross-channel spots -- are designed to boost the stunt and the VOD programming.

“This has been a collaborative effort with Comcast. We wanted to maximize access for Comcast’s on-demand viewers,” Dangar said. “We think we will drive linear ratings by creating excitement with Comcast subscribers.

Comcast senior VP and general manager of video products Page Thompson praised the comprehensive effort.

“We want to continue to collaborate with networks to drive promotional opportunities for their programming and provide us with great on-demand product,” he said. “Our research with Nielsen [Media Research] shows that VOD can have a positive impact on linear programming.”

Comcast has worked with VH1 (Hogan Knows Best), HBO (Rome), The History Channel (10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America) and Noggin (Franklin’s Magic Christmas Movie), among others, in premiering content on its VOD platform.

Thompson said Shark Week VOD fare is also gaining exposure via mentions on the On Demand area of its portal, direct-mail pieces and the on-demand e-mails the company disseminates to some 2 million subscribers who have opted in to receive those communications. Moreover, it should benefit from positioning in the preview loop on the operator’s on-demand barker channel.

”We sometimes see doubling and trebling of on-demand viewing for shows featured there,” he added.

Last summer, cable’s longest-running stunt performed well, attracting 20.6 million viewers, including 8 million for the first two runs of MythBusters: Jaws Special. Shark Week averaged a 1.5 household rating from July 17-21, 2005, its best since 2001, and a 1.2 among adults 25-54, its top number with that demo since 1996, according to Discovery officials.

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