Time Warner charts Hits Channel

The new service would offer viewers on-demand access to popular television shows immediately after their first airing
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Time Warner Cable confirmed it is in discussions with the four top U.S. television networks to create a ratings-based, on-demand television Hits Channel.

If the deal is completed, it would offer viewers on-demand access to the most popular television shows immediately after their first airing. Nielsen Media Research would base the choice of the offerings on early ratings.

A video-on-demand service based on the shifting whims of TV viewers would represent the first effort to package and sell television programs in a way that mimics the “wisdom of crowds” approach, which has become common on the Internet and underpins the way search engines like Google rank results, the New York Times reported.

No details have been made available. One approach being contemplated, the Times reported, would offer viewers on-demand access to programs ranked in the top 20 (over a period of time to be determined) for a fee of $10 a month, on top of the regular bill. A price for an individual program may also be contemplated, the report said.

Before any version of a ratings-based service could become a reality, television executives cautioned the newspaper, several big hurdles that have held back the widespread availability of video-on-demand would have to be overcome.

Primarily, the networks and cable operator would have to decide how the subscription fees would be split between the distributor and networks — and also how the network pot would be divided among the ever-changing lineup of top programs.

For example, the newspaper asked, would the fee be split according to which network had the most slots on the top 20 at a given time, or would it be split according to which programs were selected for on-demand viewing? And even if those questions were ironed out, the networks would need agreements with creators, producers and writers, as well as local affiliate station owners.

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