Discovery Creates 'Sponsor Cinema'

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Discovery Communications Inc. will roll out an ad-supported video-on-demand service this summer.

"Discovery Sponsor Cinema" will be packaged as part of DCI's free-on-demand video service, "Choice 10 Discovery," and is meant to occupy one to two hours of file-server capacity. The other 10 menu selections range from kids' shows to science programs.

"We estimate that, depending on server capacity, our sponsor messages will constitute approximately 10 [percent] to 15 percent of our file-served, video-on-demand content," said DCI CEO John Hendricks in a statement, announcing the service on April 25.

Hendricks — who first mentioned Discovery Sponsor Cinema in the April 15 Multichannel News
— described that total as "roughly equivalent to the advertising load on our cable networks, which average about eight of 60 minutes per hour, or 13 percent."

Commercials that run on Discovery Sponsor Cinema will range from standard-length spots to custom-designed, long-form infomercials, with the latter targeted to viewers interested in additional information about, say, a car, computer, health product or travel destination.

In his Multichannel News
interview, Hendricks felt that auto makers might steer longer-form video demonstrations that they already produce for auto shows onto DCI's newest platform.

"The advanced digital platform in which cable operators are investing will allow two-way interactivity, which will enable consumers to not only 'drill down' into our sponsors' stored video messages but also to communicate back upstream to indicate a request for more information, a test drive, a brochure, " added Discovery Networks U.S. executive vice president of ad sales Bill McGowan.

Leading up to launch, DCI executives will be working on consumer privacy protection safeguards and verification of exposure to commercials.

Although DCI has yet to identify any advertiser commitments, its announcement included positive preliminary feedback from key client and ad-agency, such as Coca-Cola Co., General Motors Corp.'s GM MediaWorks and Carat North America.

Elsewhere, the cable industry has stepped up the pace of experimenting with VOD advertising. Cox Communications Inc., for one, has been testing subscriber and client interest in VOD advertising channels for more than a year.

Vendors like SeaChange International Inc. and nCube have announced that they will be exhibiting technology at the National Show that combines personal video recording with digital-ad-insertion.

SeaChange has announced that Adelphia Communications Inc. and five other MSOs among the top eight have already bought its PVR/VOD equipment in a total of 34 markets.

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