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Disney Execs: Our VOD Won't Be For Free

2/22/2004 7:00 PM Eastern

In its opening salvo to buy The Walt Disney Co., Comcast Corp. executives touted the value of Disney content to enhance emerging video-on-demand and subscription VOD platforms.

Comcast and Disney's ABC Cable Networks Group, so far, have agreed to disagree on free VOD.

Comcast on Demand — the service called "Phillyvision" within the company — is the template for niche-targeted on-demand programming from cable networks and other media distributors.

For no extra charge, digital customers can get on-demand programming from the likes of Home & Garden Television, Food Network, Cartoon Network, The History Channel and E! Entertainment Television — but none from ABC Cable.

ABC Cable executives last week said they view paid VOD offerings as a major component of their overall mix, and aren't willing to serve up hits Lizzie McGuire, That's So Raven or Kim Possible in free offerings designed to help operators boost VOD sampling.

They say they're pleased with early returns from Disney On Demand, in which Playhouse Disney and Disney Channel shows are sold on a monthly subscription basis to Cablevision Systems Corp. digital customers

ABC Cable also offers Disney Channel programming within Insight Communications Co.'s paid family SVOD tier.

"This is a real business, and a business that we have seen Cablevision, even in its very early days, have great success with," ABC Cable Networks Group president Anne Sweeney said.

Disney Channel president of entertainment Rich Ross also said early returns from the six-month Cablevision trial — the MSO charges $4.95 on an SVOD basis — have been robust, but would not provide specific figures nor detail Disney's share of the revenue. Cablevision executives would not comment.

"VOD features the same formula as a channel: strong programming, with a strong consumer proposition," Ross said. "You have to include your crown jewels and opportunities that are consistent with your business model. We can use it to showcase new properties our company."

Comcast executives would not comment on negotiations with Disney regarding VOD and SVOD rights. SVOD provided a launching pad for a proposed linear pre-school channel spun from Playhouse Disney.

Disney decided to scrap the linear channel and deploy those assets within pay SVOD models instead.

Sweeney also is considering VOD and SVOD opportunities for other owned-and-operated networks, including SoapNet, ABC Family Channel and Toon Disney.

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