After several delays, Cablevision Systems Corp. said it will launch its
digital-cable package, branded 'iO: Interactive Optimum,' to about 500,000
subscribers in Long Island, N.Y., Friday.
In addition to about 20 new digital-basic channels, the MSO will pitch
subscribers on-demand content developed by its Sterling Digital division,
interactive-television services and about 90 video-on-demand movie titles.
But executives said most of the MSO's 3 million subscribers won't be offered
the package until next year, and several advanced features -- such as personal
video recording and telephony -- also won't be available until 2001.
The launch has been long anticipated by programmers, as Cablevision is the
last major MSO to develop a digital package.
Basic-cable programmers that made the digital lineup include Oxygen, TechTV,
Hallmark Channel and Bloomberg Television.
Fox Cable Networks Group cut a deal to include National
Geographic Channel, Fox Movie Channel and Fox Sports World in iO. The company
paid Cablevision launch support fees for NGC distribution, Fox Cable executive
vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Lindsay Gardner
Cablevision will carry five digital channels from Discovery Communications
Inc.: Discovery Science Channel, Discovery Civilization Channel, Discovery Kids,
Discovery Wings Channel and Discovery Home & Leisure Channel.
The MSO also picked up The Biography Channel and History Channel
International from A&E Television Networks; ESPNews and ESPN Classic; and
American Catholic -- a digital-programming service developed by Sterling
Digital -- will be included in a 'Mag Rack' section of on-demand content.
Additional niche services offered in the Mag Rack carry the titles Motorcycle
Freedom, Wine World, Classic Cars, BirdSight, Maximum Science, Photography Close
Up, Bridal, Club Vegetarian and Natural Health.
Subscribers will also have access to 15 premium-multiplex channels from Home
Box Office, Showtime Networks Inc., Starz Encore Group LLC and Cinemax, as well
as 45 digital-music channels from Music Choice.
Cablevision plans to demonstrate the set-tops at a handful of its The Wiz
retail outlets. Senior vice president of consumer-product management Pat Falese
said the MSO hopes to sell the package to 50,000 subscribers by the end of the
year. That's a sharp drop from the 500,000 digital boxes Cablevision had said
last year that it would distribute in 2001.
In February, Cablevision -- which had originally expected to deploy the
set-tops last December -- said it would delay the launch until this month.
Many cable operators have had difficulty reaching VOD-output deals with the
Hollywood studios. Falese said the MSO is in negotiations with the studios, but
declined to name any companies the MSO may have reached agreements with.
Cablevision will charge iO subscribers $29.95 per month for the package, or
$19.95 per month for the first year of the service if they sign up before the
end of the year. Those fees are in addition to its $13.99 package of basic
over-the-air channels or the $37.73 'Family' expanded-basic package.
The iO package includes several interactive services, including Metro Weather
Center, which offers weather maps and radar images, as well as on-demand
information on fashion, restaurants and art events from MetroTV Plus.
Subscribers will be able to control camera angels for some sporting events
distributed by Madison Square Garden Network with MSG Game Director, and
PhotoNetTV will allow subscribers to create slide shows with photos on the
Cablevision will offer interactive versions of PBS' Mister Rogers'
Neighborhood and Zoom. The MSO will also offer interactive
programming from its MuchMusic USA and News 12 Long Island programming
Interactive games, including trivia and blackjack, will be branded
Cablevision -- which developed its own simple
interactive program guide -- will also offer subscribers an electronic-mail
service that can be accessed via the television and a remote control.