A small California system is testing the viability of
taking pay-per-view orders via the Internet, with encouraging results so far, the company
American Cable Entertainment's San Bernardino, Calif.,
system has only offered Internet ordering with two events -- a September World
Championship Wrestling event and TVKO's Oscar De La Hoya-Julio Cesar Chavez bout that
same month -- and both events generated fewer than 20 orders.
Nevertheless, ACE was intrigued with the initial response
from subscribers, said Ron Stark, marketing manager for the 35,500-subscriber system,
which was formerly owned by California-based MSO Marks Cable.
None of the major billing and ordering companies offers PPV
Internet-ordering technology. TelVue Corp. and Prevue Networks
Inc. are testing such capabilities in conjunction with a Comcast Corp.
cable system in northern New Jersey.
Through TelVue, subscribers are issued security pass codes
that allow them to receive information about events or movies via the Web site. They can
then order events online in a process that takes less than five seconds to complete.
ACE's ordering procedure isn't as high-tech --
orders go directly from the site to Stark's e-mail address. Nevertheless, Stark said,
the concept works because it helps to ease the burden of busy customer-service
The system cuts off PPV Internet orders several days before
an event to ensure that each one is properly logged in.
"People hate calling the cable operator, so we're
offering a way where subscribers can order the fight without picking up the phone,"
Stark said. "For us, it loosens up the phone lines so that we can serve subscribers
It helps that the system's universe has a high
computer penetration: More than 42 percent of the homes that the system passes have
computers, and about 17 percent of those are online.
The system generates about 241 hits per day to the site on
weekdays and 430 over the weekend, but it expects that total to climb in the near future.
Eventually, Stark envisions that the site will handle as much as 25 percent of PPV orders
for each event.
"As more and more people become computer-literate, we
expect to see a major increase in [PPV Internet ordering]," Stark said.
Beginning next month, the system will begin tagging its PPV
spots with the Internet address and distributing direct-mail pieces touting the site and
the Internet-ordering option. Also, the system will run any video trailers that it can
from each event on the site.
"Anything that we do to promote the event will have
promotion for the site," he said.