Fox Cable Checks Out Dynamic VOD Ads

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Fox Cable Networks is testing BlackArrow's dynamic ad-insertion system with video-on-demand content from FX, National Geographic Channel and Speed, in partnership with an unidentified cable operator.

The six-month test, which got underway in December 2009, spans four markets with the MSO.

"The first goal is obviously to make sure it actually works and we're happy to report it's all systems go," said Sherry Brennan, Fox Cable Networks senior vice president of sales strategy and development.

In the trial, Fox Cable is running different promos for upcoming shows on FX, NatGeo and Speed, as well as ads for 20th Century Fox movie releases. Each of the three networks provides about 10 hours of VOD content per month to affiliates.

Currently, the programmer must distribute any ads or promos with VOD content hard-coded into the file. "For us, it's just huge to not have to put up one ad across the whole country for 30 days," Brennan said.

BlackArrow has so far announced trials with two MSO customers: Bresnan Communications, which is running a trial in four Montana markets; and Comcast, which initiated a test in Jacksonville, Fla. (Comcast is also an investor in BlackArrow.)

For Fox Cable, the next step is "figuring out how much it matters," Brennan said, and determining whether the additional workload to change up the ads is worth the effort. The programmer also is eyeing the ability to expand the dynamic VOD capabilities to additional affiliates.

"The broader footprint you can offer an advertiser, the more it will matter to them," Brennan said.

Fox Cable is looking at using various ad-targeting parameters in the BlackArrow trial, including time of day, date range, ZIP code and designated market area (DMA).

BlackArrow president Nick Troiano said Fox Cable is "blazing the trail for how this will be done" in the industry by other programmers. The programmer is using the BlackArrow Sales Suite, which can potentially facilitate a cross-operator buy.

Investors in privately held BlackArrow include Cisco Systems, Comcast Interactive Capital, Intel Capital, Mayfield Fund and Polaris Venture Partners.

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