When Insight Communications Co. relaunched its children's subscription video-on-demand package in December, a few new faces joined the lineup. For the first time, Disney Channel programming appeared on an on-demand platform, included in Insight's $9.99 a month children's SVOD package.
ABC Cable Networks, which operates Disney Channel along with several other cable services, has steadfastly remained in the paid camp for VOD product, along with fellow Walt Disney Co. property ESPN and Discovery Networks U.S. All three programmers have declined to join other programmers who began offering basic content on free on-demand tiers.
"We are very excited," said ABC Cable senior vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Ben Pyne. "We have a very good and vibrant relationship with Insight. They had expressed interest since early last fall. They believe there is a value you want to build in VOD."
Disney is offering about 10 hours a month of programming — about 20 episodes of current and library programs. The February lineup includes offerings from Disney Channel, Playhouse and Toon Disney, including installments of Cadet Kelly, The Thirteenth Year, Stanley, Proud Family, Out of the Box, Even Stevens, The Jersey, The Famous Jett Jackson, Rolie Polie Olie and The Book of Pooh.
All of the content is refreshed each month, said ABC Cable vice president of distribution strategy and national accounts Albert Cheng.
"We're trying to create a different experience on the VOD platform," and not just time-shifted product, he said.
For instance, the February schedule includes an episode of The Famous Jett Jackson, a popular Disney series that isn't currently on the network.
SVOD programming also will follow themes where appropriate, said Pyne. For instance, Halloween programs will appear during October, he said.
Cadet Kelly, on the other hand, is a first-run show that appears on the linear network and on VOD. "It's another viewing opportunity," Cheng said.
"We're testing a number of different approaches in terms of programming, packaging and promotion," Pyne added.
Cheng said Disney has discussed different refreshment rates and varying the total hours offered within SVOD packages.
"We have heard from affiliates that less is more," Pyne said.
A year ago, operators and programmers were talking 30 to 40 hours or more of content, but those numbers have been reduced, said Pyne. Reasons why include finite server capacity, operational issues that surround the constant refreshment of content and the desire to zero in on quality product.
Pyne said Insight is paying Disney an undisclosed license fee.
"We feel it is important to establish a value for the product," Pyne said.
"The pay model is what we're going towards," Cheng added. "FOD undercuts the ability to establish value and increase value over time."
Disney's fare on Insight contains no commercials.
Pyne said Disney is talking with other MSOs about adding SVOD children's packages. "There is seemingly more interest in doing more in the SVOD space," versus a year ago.
Navigating to VOD product is a key concern for programmers, especially programmers lumped in with their competitors.
But Disney seems pleased with how Insight VOD users get to Disney content. Consumers who click on the "kids" icon on the opening screen arrive at a screen with two boxes.
The box on the left carries network brands, including Disney. The box on the right caries the individual programs, according to those brands.
"That is what we want," Cheng said.
Added Pyne, "We really believe we have the brands that can work in this space."