It's not yet fashionable to refer to the "fall
broadband season," but it's getting there.
As broadband becomes part of the lexicon of cable
subscribers, programmers are slowly but surely beginning to roll out broadband-specific
However modest in its overall slate of programming, the
1999 fall broadband season does include some innovative applications of the medium as
programmers begin to develop content specifically for broadband users.
"This is truly the year when we can actually show
state-of-the-art broadband programming," Road Runner vice president of programming
Carl Rogers said. By the end of this year, he added, there will be content "that is
going to put a look and feel to what broadband is all about."
Broadband-content pioneer Bravo Networks -- its The
Independent Film Channel has maintained a broadband-specific Web site since March 1997 --
will continue rolling out programming geared for high-speed Internet users, including
schools with broadband access.
"IFC DV" will premiere online in October on
IFC's broadband site, featuring one movie each month that was produced and filmed
from start to finish in a digital format.
These feature-length films will be shown on the broadband
site at the same time they are broadcast on IFC, with broadband Web users able to see the
films again afterward as many times as they want. Films will be distributed directly to
Bravo's "World Cinema" will offer a
"virtual video-on-demand" program on its broadband Web site, featuring foreign
short films averaging two to four minutes in length, with the longest about nine minutes.
Accompanying the films will be multimedia content about
specific countries, indie-film and festival news and information about each highlighted
Bravo Networks executive vice president of new media Joe
Cantwell said that next month, "Bravo in the Classroom" will focus on the
performing arts and, to a lesser degree, the fine arts.
As a key component, the broadband offering will give
students an opportunity to interact with the production of a well-known theater or dance
composition. The objective is to involve students in the creative process of a
performance-arts group, allowing them to experience the "behind-the-scenes"
workings of a production through text, video, digital photography and live chat, Cantwell
Support materials will be provided to schools, and the
program will be distributed to Excite@Home affiliates.
"What we bring that's new is a combination of
arts and technology through a cable system at a time when arts [programs] are being cut
back," Cantwell said.
IFC will add one or two more short films to the
"Broadband Theater" portion of its Web site, plus coverage of several U.S. and
international film events, including the New York Film Festival, the Toronto Film Festival
and the Gotham Awards.
Most Bravo/IFC broadband programming is offered to users in
Apple Computer Inc.'s "QuickTime" format.
Also aggressively pushing broadband-specific content this
fall is AMC Networks, which, like Bravo Networks, is part of Cablevision Systems
Corp.'s Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. unit.
"Microwave Movies" will debut Sept. 1 on Road
Runner, featuring edited 10-minute short clips of "B" movies, including
selections from the network's Sam Arkoff library. The clips will be in QuickTime
format, and they will be spliced from various key moments in the films.
AMC's Romance Classics will repurpose for broadband
delivery its Everyday Elegance with Colin Cowie program, renaming it Style
Solutions and offering women style tips. Video clips will run three to five minutes in
"Women go to the Web to simplify their lives,"
AMC Networks president Kate McEnroe said. "Style Solutions is designed to
combine information and entertainment in a very short time frame."
Also repurposed for broadband will be Romancing America,
a half-hour program that will be cut to three to seven minutes. The content will feature a
romantic travel destination with links to information about costs, accommodations,
reservations, menus and other details.
"R & R" debuts in October on AMC
Networks' broadband site, and it will offer tips on how to live a more relaxing
lifestyle, McEnroe said. In addition to video and audio, the content will include
"drill-down" links to provide additional information about lifestyle topics --
for example, which spas offer transcendental meditation.
All Romance broadband programs will be seen on Road Runner
and offered in QuickTime format.
Home Box Office is just beginning to explore broadband
content for its sports, original programming and comedic presentations, HBO.com executive
producer Diane Jakackie said.
This fall, HBO will enhance its World Championship Boxing
programming with broadband "video chats" with fighters and commentators.
Ultimately, Jakackie said, HBO hopes to have "side-by-side" broadband content
that on-air viewers can access over the Internet. Its broadband content this fall will be
produced in QuickTime format.
HBO is also producing enhanced boxing content for Microsoft
Corp.'s WebTV Networks Internet-over-TV service this fall.
In an interesting complement to hit series The Sopranos,
HBO last year created FBI Files, a Web-only offshoot, which quickly became the
second-most popular section of the site -- "a total surprise for us," Jakackie
said. HBO is creating a second season of FBI Files, and it will add interactive and
multimedia elements to the production.
Later this year, HBO is planning to launch "30 by 30:
Kid Flicks," featuring movies made by children. The network will post the flicks on
its Web site, in essence creating an online kids' film festival.
Other broadband projects still percolating at HBO include
highlights from Chris Rock and Dennis Miller shows.
Road Runner director of programming Rebecca Paoletti said
the service has several broadband-specific programming features scheduled for release this
fall. Its "back-to-school and back-to-work initiative" will contain several new
"Homework Help," which is scheduled to
debut at the end of the month, featuring content from Road Runner partners Nickelodeon,
Discovery Channel and others;
A computer-buying section; and
A shopping section featuring back-to-school items
such as clothes and school supplies.
Also in the works is a careers section with resume-builder
features, salary comparisons and relocation information.
To complement the fall sports season, Road Runner will
feature a section on Major League Baseball's pennant races. Fox Sports, CNN/SI and
CBS SportsLine will deliver player statistics, video highlights and replays, as well as
running a home-run counter. Video will feature start-and-stop features and run on
RealNetworks Inc.'s "RealPlayer" and Microsoft's "NetShow."
Road Runner's National Football League season-preview
section will feature video from training camps and player stats. During the season, Road
Runner will offer football fans live coverage and highlights from games.
Just as football and new TV programming has become
synonymous with the fall season, Rogers said, the cycle of broadband programming will
begin to match that of over-the-air programming.
Eventually, the fall broadband season may include a bevy of
new programming rollouts carefully timed to complement on-air programming.
Still, many programmers are just beginning to experiment
with broadband content. "Nobody really knows what rich media is yet," Jakackie
At the same time, given the explosive growth of not only
the Internet, but also of broadband subscribers, establishing a broadband presence is
becoming extremely important for programmers.
"Even if you do it wrong," McEnroe said,
"the mistake is in not trying."