Atom Helps MSOs Try 'Shorts' On Demand

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Atom Films was a darling of the Internet's original content space a few years back, managing to evade the carnage that engulfed so many similar companies. Part of its survival was due to its reaching out to other media, including television.

A few months ago, Atom's first TV vehicle was formed when Comcast Corp. launched a video-on-denand offering from Atom Television, run by former Century Communications Corp. executive Andrew Tow.

Tow launched several cable networks in Australia in the 1990s, after leaving Century. His Global Media Holdings then approached Atom Films about forming a joint venture.

In addition to securing VOD deals with several other distributors, Atom Television plans to add an HDTV element in the near future.

"We wanted to create an outlet for them on TV," Tow said. "They have an eternal flow of content and we want to be the dominant aggregator of short-form elements on broadband."

What helps, of course, is the buzz Atom has already generated in the marketplace. While Tow continues to work on building a digital channel, taking Atom's tailor-made short film content down the on-demand route made more sense.

Atom will package 40 to 50 shorts for Comcast each month.

Building momentum

"We're doing themed compilations with the shorts. Some are comedies, some have big stars, some are animated," Tow said. "We created the packaging at GMH. We do the creative interstitial elements and create a context for the shorts."

In addition to Comcast, Atom has signed deals with Cablevision Systems Corp., On Command, RCN Corp. and two Canadian cable operators.

"Things are starting to percolate for us," Tow said. "We're gaining some momentum. We've done well with the Comcast trial and like to expand the range of offerings."

For instance, Atom's deal with Cablevision is built around revenue-sharing, with each VOD short carrying a set price. Cablevision charges $2.95 for each 60-minute compilation.

"Someone paying that should get a deeper, richer experience," he said.

Atom supplies Cablevision and On Command with about 20 hours of fare each month.

Tow is also considering an SVOD service that would offer 15 to 20 hours of programming each month for a flat fee in the several-dollar range, he said.

Crossover considered

Some programming will be offered in both packages, said Tow, but content should be different enough to maintain premium elements for the paying customers, as hundreds of hours of short films are available to Atom TV.

"For every 100 or so films they receive, they only put one or two on the air," he said.

VOD fits well into Atom's three-platform strategy, which also includes broadband Internet access and the soon-to-be-launched diginet.

"The goal is to use the broadband model to promote VOD and the channel and use the VOD opportunity to include promotional messages for the network and broadband," he said. "We have a cross-media opportunity."

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