When Time Warner Cable of Green Bay, Wisc., last Monday (June 3) launched its iCONTROL video-on-demand service to consumers, it became the first system in the MSO to kick off with all three legs of VOD: theatrical movies, subscription VOD and free content.
To date, Time Warner's SVOD markets only carry HBO On Demand, which the MSO is testing at various price points in different markets.
Green Bay's soft launch was conducted in selected neighborhoods, following weeks of technical trials in employee and "friendly" homes. In the tests, Green Bay also offered SVOD from Cinemax and Showtime Networks Inc. as a stress test for the network.
The system plans to offer additional premium SVOD services from Cinemax, Showtime and The Movie Channel later this month, TWC Green Bay public relations director Barb Pandolfo said.
That could make it the first cable operator in the country to launch Cinemax on Demand, which HBO executives said they expect to launch this year with as many as 40 titles, including adult content.
The Green Bay system plans to charge a flat rate of $6.95 per month for SVOD access, whether a customer subscribes to one, two, three or four premium movie services. The company hopes to add Starz on Demand, too, Pandolfo noted.
Content from Home & Garden Television, Do-It-Yourself Network and The Biography Channel is available on-demand to any digital-cable subscriber in Green Bay's VOD territories. The service also offers free on-demand music.
Time Warner of Green Bay will host an invitation-only event on June 24 to promote the launch of VOD throughout the market. It's also testing digital video recorders integrated within Scientific-Atlanta Inc. Explorer 8000 receivers; it plans to launch that service later this month. The set-top boxes would be both SVOD- and DVR-capable, Pandolfo said. The Green Bay system also rolled out high-definition television in January.
Digital cable has been available to Green Bay subscribers since 1999. The system has about 38,000 digital-cable subscribers and 150,000 basic subscribers. Local audio/video and computer stores have helped the system market its digital-cable and cable-modem services.
Time Warner's Houston division expected to launch its iCONTROL VOD service on June 10 in parts of West Houston. It will offer up to 150 titles, with recent theatricals priced at $3.95 each, while older titles will cost $1.95 each.
Following a gradual rollout, the system plans to make VOD available to all digital customers by April 2003.