Comcast to Offer VOD Fare to Other MSOs


San Antonio -- The Comcast Media Center is nailing down plans to commercially distribute on-demand content, such as exclusive packages of Hispanic and kids’ programming, to cable operators apart from its parent, Comcast Corp., officials said Monday.

CMC director of national sales Dean Nelson described his unit’s bullishness about marketing video-on-demand offerings created for Comcast to the entire cable industry.

“My job is to commercialize things that our facility has done for our company,” Nelson said during a panel at the National Cable Television Cooperative’s Winter Conference here.

“The next thing we’re doing is working on a distribution plan [for VOD] outside of Comcast,” he added. “Over the next two months, our plans about how we deal with our other MSO partners are going to be resolved. I’m talking about Adelphia [Communications Corp.], Insight [Communications Co. Inc.], Charter [Communications Inc.], Bresnan [Communications], Cox [Communications Inc.], Time Warner [Cable].”

Nelson added that the CMC had been testing the “interoperability” of providing VOD content with three of those cable operators. The goal is for the CMC -- which includes Headend in the Sky -- to be capable of offering VOD content to cable-operator customers by the second quarter.

“We’re working on trying to make this a second-generation solution for the industry,” Nelson told the NCTC’s members.

After the session, he added, “We’ve been taking with all of the other MSOs about what is the right business relationship for VOD.”

The CMC believes the exclusive VOD content it’s been putting together will be especially attractive to cable operators, according to Nelson.

“We’re in the process of doing deals with 32 Hispanic programmers that will be exclusive to our platform,” he said. “We’re working on exclusive content specifically for the children’s market. That’s another thing that’s tested well in VOD and, so, we’re going to come up with exclusive content for that.”

Ethnic programming provides another possible VOD opportunity, as do sports highlights, which Comcast now offers for the National Football League, according to Nelson.

“The sports highlights are just going to grow,” he said. “We’ve done some work with the NBA [National Basketball Association], and they’re pretty excited about it.”

The CMC can fill a VOD void because there are certain genres of programming that current on-demand providers that have focused on pay-per-view movies -- namely In Demand and TVN Entertainment Corp. -- aren’t offering to MSOs, Nelson said.

“We realized with the testing we’d done that news and sports are a major category, and neither TVN nor In Demand were really interested in reconfiguring their business process around them,” he added.

In contrast to VOD, Nelson said that at this juncture, there’s not a workable business model for the CMC to market HDTV services to customers like the NCTC.

“We’re still running the business model,” he added. “We haven’t met the trigger point, but we’re still working on it.”

The CMC would need a commitment of a certain number of subscribers, which Nelson declined to specify, before it could market an affordable HDTV offering to the industry, he said.

Apart from cost, the other issue is deciding what HDTV services the CMC should ultimately offer, according to Nelson.

“When we talk to our larger customers, like the Time Warners and the Coxes, they would like us to put up stuff they don’t have currently,” Nelson told the NCTC audience. “When we talk to smaller operators, they’d like us to put up the basics. So that’s kind of where we’re at.”