01.05.2004 12:00 PM
Cablevision bets that HDTV will go VOOM in 2004

Few television entrepreneurs are making a bigger bet on new technology in 2004 than Charles Dolan. The veteran chairman of Cablevision Systems is putting his money and reputation behind a new HDTV service called VOOM. For Dolan to win, a huge pent-up demand for high-definition programming must converge with some very deep-pocketed subscribers.



VOOM is expected to offer up to 39 premium high-definition channels to consumers across the continental United States, including 21 brand-new, exclusive, and commercial-free HD channels delivering hundreds of hours of movies, sports and music.

Starting at $39.90 per month, VOOM, as of Feb. 1, is expected to offer up to 39 premium high-definition channels to consumers across the continental United States, including 21 brand-new, exclusive, and commercial-free HD channels delivering hundreds of hours of movies, sports and music.

A service of Rainbow DBS, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems, VOOM requires new subscribers to spend roughly $800 for an HD receiver, satellite dish, over-the-air antenna and installation. Subscription prices begin at $49 and range up to $99 a month. To get the full experience, subscribers must have a high-definition-capable TV and sound system.

VOOM launched Oct. 15, 2003, and almost immediately ran into installation glitches, Wired Magazine reported. Despite these early troubles, Bill Casamo, Rainbow DBS executive vice president for marketing and sales, told the news service that VOOM meets the “pent-up demand for a content-starved HD community that’s made a significant investment in televisions and receivers.”

But Bruce Leichtman, president of the Leichtman Research Group, countered that he isn’t sure there’s enough demand to warrant Casamo’s enthusiasm.

“To the high-end consumer who really wants a lot of HD programming, they clearly have the best product,” said Leichtman. “Is that base large enough going forward to sustain? Is that audience large enough today given the alternatives that are out there? Competing against Dish, Direct and the local cable company, they’re the fourth horse in a four-horse race and they’re starting 100 laps behind.”

The true test will be in the coming months as Sears, Voom’s exclusive retail partner, attempts to market the service to its in-store customers. The retailer has placed VOOM displays in more than 800 of the chain’s full-line stores.

For more information visit www.cablevision.com.

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