Ready for a personal home page from a cable company? Time Warner Cable may roll out a new navigation system that allows customers to view listings of their favorite video-on-demand shows on the TV screen, similar to the way an Internet site such as Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) lets a visitor set preferences for what will appear on a personalized page of information and entertainment features.
On Sept. 28, Time Warner Cable trademarked the brands “My On Demand” and “MYOD.” According to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filings, the trademarks cover the “provision of personalized video services over distributed networks, including multichannel-video networks and the Internet.”
The trademark filings come as Time Warner Cable develops a new interactive program guide, known internally as the Mystro Digital Navigator. Time Warner officials have said the Digital Navigator would allow subscribers to look for programming in a single search that would encompass live TV shows, video-on-demand content and programming stored on digital video recorders.
Time Warner Cable spokesman Keith Cocozza declined to comment on what the company plans to do with the “My On Demand” and “MYOD” brands, and said the trademarks don’t necessarily have anything to do with a new navigation system. But he also pointed to development of the Digital Navigator product, which Time Warner officials had originally planned to roll out during the second half of 2004 but have yet to deploy on any cable systems.
Digital Navigator relies on the Open Cable Application Platform, an open software architecture which would allow subscribers that buy new digital-cable ready HDTVs to access the guide without the use of a set-top. Samsung Electronics America Inc. is the only electronics company that has built an HD set that has been certified as OCAP compliant by Cable Television Laboratories Inc.
Comcast Corp. is also attempting to improve its video-on-demand navigation system with the rollout of the i-Guide, a new interactive program guide it developed with Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc.
The i-Guide allows subscribers to jump from TV channels such as Home Box Office to the HBO On Demand programming library, with a click of the remote.
While subscribers with traditional IPGs need to punch in a new channel number in order to pull up HBO On Demand, Comcast subscribers with i-Guide watching a live HBO channel can simply hit the “info” button on their remote, and then pull up the HBO On Demand library without punching in a different number.
Gemstar has also sold banner ads for the i-Guide to HBO, ESPN, Paramount Pictures and other programmers. Subscribers who click on the banner ads on the i-Guide can instantly pull up each programmer’s on-demand libraries.
Time Warner Cable also has been testing a new programming-navigation system from Gotuit Media Corp. on its Portland, Maine, system, since April 2004 (see “Interactive TV Unchained,’’ page 14). The Gotuit product breaks down programming, ranging from football games to Scripps Networks shows, into short segments, such as individual football plays, which are tagged by Gotuit staffers.
Adelphia Communications Corp.’s Buffalo, N.Y., system is using a Gotuit application that allows subscribers to configure its on-demand system to present them National Football League game highlights from players on their fantasy football teams.
Gotuit chairman and CEO Dan O’Brien said the company is also developing a “My Vault” application, set to roll out in 2006, which would allow on-demand subscribers to aggregate their favorite programs on a single screen.
O’Brien said his cable customers are looking to ease navigation for subscribers, as the size of video-on-demand libraries grow.
“I think that operators are saying, 'I have to do what the consumer wants. I’ve got to make this as easy for them as possible, because if I don’t, then someone else will,’ O’Brien said. “I think cable is looking at VOD and personalization and control as a point of differentiation against other platform deliverers.”
Gotuit, which supplies operators with original on-demand content, including tryouts for the New England Patriots cheerleader squad and music videos, is also pitching cable operators an on-demand advertising service. Viewers can use the Gotuit navigation system to view on-demand programming in full-screen mode, but when they browse on-demand listings, the screen uses an L-wrap interface with program listings on the left side of the screen, with banner ads, similar to Web ads, on the bottom of the screen.
Operators could also use Gotuit technology to allow viewers to click their remotes to link from banner ads to long-form commercials from advertisers, O’Brien said.