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AOL, Time Warner Cable Make Music Together For VOD Customers

9/05/2004 8:00 PM Eastern

As part of their video-on-demand lineup last month, Time Warner Cable subscribers had access to recently recorded, intimate studio and club-venue musical performances from artists Avril Lavigne, JoJo, J-Kwon, Lonestar and Usher under the My Music Channel banner.

But this wasn’t record label-produced programming or a video package from a TV syndicator. Rather, it was the latest installment from a programming source few in cable would have imagined a few years ago. The concert performances were provided by AOL Broadband.

Since Time Warner Cable launched the My Music Channel, it has become a popular destination for VOD users, and another way for the MSO to differentiate its platform from satellite.

POPULAR PAIR

My Music Channel features about 150 pieces of on-demand musical content. Most are music videos, but among the most popular programming are segments from AOL for Broadband’s Sessions@AOL and Broadband Rocks, refreshed on a monthly basis.

The two shows anchor AOL’s online music section, which boasts 20 million unique users per month, said AOL for Broadband’s senior vice president of affiliate marketing and operations, Lou Borrelli. AOL produces three to five Sessions@AOL each week, inviting artists to a studio for an intimate concert performance that typically lasts 30 minutes.

Broadband Rocks is filmed at a New York or Los Angeles club, and is more like a full-length concert production. About 100,000 AOL for Broadband users watch the live stream of the Broadband Rocks series, and more than 1 million watch the archived version during the week following the live stream. About 2 million users stream the archived Sessions@AOL segments weekly, AOL said.

With that base of online support, it was natural for AOL to work a deal to bring the content to the on-demand platform.

“We’re taking the best we have to offer and bringing it to the TV platform in a way that enables digital homes to sample and experience the best AOL Music has to offer,” Borrelli said.

Neither AOL nor Time Warner Cable would disclose My Music Channel viewership data, but Borrelli was enthusiastic.

“In my view of the [VOD] numbers, this is wildly successful in the very early stages,” he said. “It is one of the best performing on-demand applications they have.”

The content works on a number of levels, he said. Sessions and Broadband Rocks have become so popular that record companies are vying for AOL’s Monday time slot to get artists exposure before they debut new CDs, which are typically released on Tuesdays.

The content includes high-profile, popular talent at the peak of their careers, and that can help drive VOD usage, said ex-cable operator Borrelli. It also serves to reinforce cable’s high-speed data service since the AOL content originates on AOL Broadband, not narrowband.

“Two years ago, we put a significant stake in the ground,” said AOL for Broadband’s vice president and general manager of affiliate marketing and operations, Joe Cantwell.

The former Rainbow Programming executive helped develop AOL for Broadband, which now includes amalgamated premium content that would cost more than $100 to purchase separately, and combines everything from sports, music and news to National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing fare and pro sports league content. “We made it easy to get a lot of stuff in one place,” he noted.

Over time, AOL reached an agreement with Road Runner, whereby the high-speed service provides a monthly sampling of product to its broadband subscriber base.

Nothing is off-limits, but AOL provides content that is complementary in nature. For instance, AOL has exclusive rights to much of the programming around the two-week U.S. Open Tennis Championship. RoadRunner will carry a weekly highlights package drawn from the AOL for Broadband content.

Earlier this year, AOL for Broadband migrated its music content, much of it exclusive, to Time Warner Cable’s VOD platform. My Music Channel has its own VOD “channel,” and is available in Albany, Binghamton, Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y.; Appleton/Green Bay, Wis.; Houston, Austin, Corpus Christi, Waco and El Paso, Texas; Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh, N.C.; Cincinnati; Honolulu; Jackson, Miss.; Kansas City, Kan.; Lincoln, Neb.; Los Angeles, San Diego and Palm Springs, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; Milwaukee; Northeast Ohio; Portland, Maine.; Shreveport, La.; South Carolina; and Western Ohio.

OTHER MSO DISCUSSIONS

With the Time Warner Cable launch under its belt, Borrelli is in full-bore discussions with other MSOs. “Free on demand is very important to help promote VOD usage,” he said, and music is a strong category to make that happen. The VOD music content also helps to drive high-speed data penetration, he said. “We did this as a way to drive multiple revenue streams, high-speed data and digital set-top boxes.”

“It’s important to have an on-demand leader like music,” Cantwell said. “There’s nothing that jumps out for consumers like this.”

Added Borrelli: “We think this is going to have tremendous power. It’s a defining offering for the VOD platform.”

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