In Demand's Name Game For VOD Viewers

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In Demand L.L.C. and its cable system affiliates plan to use the moniker "iControl" as a marketing, educational and promotional phrase for rolling out video-on-demand.

Already in use in a handful of Time Warner Cable markets, In Demand president and CEO Stephen Brenner expects that most affiliates will use iControl as they roll out VOD.

Time Warner expects to launch VOD services in a dozen or more markets by year's end. Comcast Cable Communications Inc. is rolling out the service in 16 markets. And Cox Communications Inc. plans to introduce VOD in seven markets by the end of the third quarter.

"[iControl is] a name that's owned by the cable companies and it's their description for the functionally that they will be launching," Brenner said. He added that there was a desire to develop a product with a name that sounded good and was easy to describe.

Brenner said the name iControl grew out of focus group meetings and other research conducted over the past year. It also represents a desire by MSOs to improve upon the name pay-per-view. "PPV is a lousy name," Brenner said.

For years, the industry wrestled with changing the name or devising a national marketing structure for PPV — similar to DirecTV Inc.'s Direct Ticket — but nothing ever developed.

The introduction of VOD gives MSOs a chance to rewrite the marketing rules and start over with new and better technology.

"The branding will be Comcast digital or whatever, and 'With the power of iControl' or 'Powered by iControl,' " Brenner said.

The iControl name will begin appearing on In Demand marketing and promotional materials, ranging from radio spots to newspaper ad slicks and telemarketing messages, depending on what each MSO wants. "We'll be creating a lot of materials," he said.

Initially, Brenner expects the iControl spots to center on educating subscribers about VOD. As systems launch VOD and users begin to understand the experience, iControl will add movie title specific content to its ads.

Brenner added that iControl could be extended into the subscription-VOD category. The content deals for SVOD will be worked out between the content providers and the cable companies.

"The capability is broad enough to encompass any programming on the file server, and they'd be smart to use it for everything," Brenner said. "To the extent cable companies are creating value in the name iControl, they can control movies from In Demand and programming from Showtime and Starz."

At the moment, only Time Warner Cable is using iControl, but Brenner expects Comcast and Cox to use the name when they rollout new VOD services later this year.

Whether the name will ever appear in a national advertisement depends on how quickly VOD rolls out and scales across the country, he said.

Studios have no problem with the name, Brenner said. "I think they want us to do whatever we can to make it a bigger category."

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