Mag Rack will expand its video-on-demand distribution path to systems owned by Mediacom Communications Corp. this month, and maintains hope for a Comcast Corp. deal, too.
The Rainbow Media Holdings-owned service sealed a Mediacom agreement early last week, adding to current affiliate roster Insight Communications Co., Charter Communications Inc. and Rainbow parent Cablevision Systems Corp.
Mag Rack will launch in three Mediacom-served markets Aug. 31, then will spread elsewhere as more systems are VOD-enabled.
Initial deployments will take place in Mobile, Ala.; Moline, Ill.; and Des Moines, Iowa.
In all three areas, Mag Rack will be offered at no extra charge to digital subscribers, currently paying $12 a month for that service.
By year's end, Mag Rack could be available to half of Mediacom's digital customer universe, according to John Pascarelli, the MSO's senior vice president of marketing and consumer services.
"We've had some free on-demand stuff here and there, but Mag Rack is the first effort where the customer will have free, unlimited use without cost," Pascarelli said. "It's a unique path that will lead to additional VOD and subscription VOD usage down the road, plus be a good digital-retention device."
Mediacom's deployments come as the service seems to be building momentum. Gregg Hill, executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing, said Mag Rack is in "advanced discussions" with Comcast, the industry's largest MSO. The service's trial run in Alexandria, Va., has blossomed into a market launch, said Hill.
"All I can say now is that we're extremely excited about where things are with Comcast," Hill said. "And all of the other key MSOs are talking to us as well."
Charter — which has yet to actually deploy Mag Rack — expects to begin rolling it out in the next few months, according to Hill. "They're beginning to roll out VOD, and we'll roll out with them."
At first, Mediacom will use cross-channel messages and direct mail to promote Mag Rack. In Des Moines, Mediacom will supplement those efforts with a new digital channel, Mediacom Connections, which will blend local event and sports coverage with barker materials.
Digital Connection, which will appear three-to-five times daily on the channel, will highlight coming attractions from different services and give subscribers tips on using digital.
A segment within the half-hour Connection
program will feature Mag Rack and offer a new episode each month. The channel and Digital Connection
were scheduled to premiere Aug. 1.
Mediacom Connections will operate on all of the company's Iowa systems within a few months, with separate editions running outside the state further down the road, Pascarelli said.