Time Warner: ‘Start Over’ Markets to Triple

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Houston -- Time Warner Cable in 2007 plans to triple the number of systems in which it offers its Start Over program-replay service, from six currently to around 18 by the end of the year, senior director of new-product deployments Keith V. Nichols said.

That would represent two-thirds of the operator’s 27 divisions.

Nichols outlined the plans on a panel Wednesday about time-shifting video content at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ Conference on Emerging Technologies here.

The Time Warner divisions already offering the free Start Over service are: Rochester, N.Y.; Albany, N.Y.; Greensboro, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; San Antonio; and Hawaii. Nichols declined to say which other markets Time Warner is contemplating for Start Over.

Start Over functions as a network-based digital-video recorder, allowing viewers to “rewind” a program and watch it from the beginning. However, the service doesn’t allow fast-forwarding -- a concession Time Warner made to programmers to ensure that advertising couldn’t be zapped through.

Nichols said that in the initial markets, Time Warner is serving about 450,000 Start Over sessions per week, from 160,000 individual set-top boxes. The amount of content viewed per subscriber via the service is 75-90 minutes per week.

The key to Start Over’s popularity has been its simplicity, he added, saying, “The Start Over icon” -- which pops up at the top of a viewer’s screen when they tune to a program enabled with the feature -- “is the single best marketing thing we ever did.”

Time Warner has agreements with broadcasters and cable networks for almost 100 channels, which translates into about 22,000 programs per month available through Start Over with the current set of rights.

Nichols expects the operator to land additional agreements as Start Over becomes more widely available. “Content providers like the service because we’re showing a trend validating that we’re getting more eyeballs on their programming,” he said.

Start Over currently doesn’t carry any advertising, but Nichols said the company is considering the introduction of sponsorships. “We could do bumper ads that say, ‘Start Over, brought to you by Time Warner Cable and whoever,’” he added.

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