ITV Comes to Carolina

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Time Warner Cable is beginning to roll out new ITV services in South Carolina, offering customers features such as the ability to upgrade to premium channels with the click of a remote, and caller ID to the TV.

Later this year, the South Carolina division also plans to roll out “Start Over” — a new time-shifted video-on-demand service which will allow subscribers with digital set-tops to watch any program from the beginning of the show, so long as they access the feature before the scheduled program ends.

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The South Carolina ITV deployments will serve as a model for future rollouts at other Time Warner systems nationwide, according to division vice president of marketing Dan Santelle. “This is a strategy that is consistent with the company’s goal to provide more choice and convenience and control to the customer, and not necessarily charge for that,” Santelle said.

While Time Warner isn’t charging fees for the interactive content, which also includes instant news and weather information and sports and stock tickers, the company hopes to generate revenue with the click-to-upgrade feature.

Before Time Warner launched the feature two weeks ago, subscribers who attempted to view a premium channel that wasn’t part of their monthly subscription saw an on-screen message which said they weren’t authorized to view the channel.

Now, when customers attempt to view a channel they don’t subscribe to, they receive a message that says they can order the channel immediately and the price is listed.

“Today, the interface isn’t smart enough to know what other [bundled] services you have, so what we do is list the highest price that it could be. If it was [Home Box Office], it’s $9.95. If you have another premium service, it would actually cost less,” Santelle said.

Eventually, the “click-to-upgrade” system will be able to price each channel based on bundle of services that each customer has, Santelle added.

Subscribers can access the interactive features by clicking the “A” button on their remote controls, which takes them to Time Warner’s “access menu,” a small interface that pops up on the screen. The video from whichever channel the subscriber is viewing will occupy the majority of the screen.

Santelle said he thought one of the most compelling new offerings is caller ID on the TV, which is available to digital-cable customers who also subscribe to Time Warner’s Digital Phone product. Subscribers can turn the feature off or on with a click of the remote.

The caller-ID feature not only allows customers to avoid getting up from the couch to see who’s calling them, but also gives them the ability to monitor who is calling their kids, Santelle said.

INTERACTIVE GAMES?

While some other Time Warner systems have rolled out interactive games from vendors such as Buzztime Interactive, South Carolina hasn’t launched interactive games. Santelle said the division may eventually deploy games that subscribers can play via remote control.

The Access menu is a stepping stone to the Digital Navigator interactive program guide, which Time Warner plans to deploy later this year, said Santelle. The South Carolina systems will eventually replace Scientific-Atlanta Inc.’s Sara IPG with the Digital Navigator, Santelle said.

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