VOD Makes Big Splash At NCTA

New orleans, laÑAt this year's Cable 2002, "the on-demand category was absolutely the centerpiece of the show." So said Jim Riley, senior vice president of Sales and Business Development for TVN Entertainment. He believes video-on-demand (VOD) is going to be rolled out fairly aggressively by cable this year. He may have good reason to make this prediction: as the costs of servers and technology on a per-stream basis have come down dramatically over the past few years, security issues have been sufficiently addressed, and on-demand space has evolved from an a-la-carte proposition to subscription video-on-demand, many in the industry are starting to take VOD seriously.

Marc O. Smith of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) remarked on the proliferation of VOD technology launches over the past year. "All of the operators have firmly embraced it," he said, "just because of the response they've gotten in the limited markets they've launched in. They seem to think it's for real. Everyone calls it a Ôsticky application.' When it's launched, it's appreciated by the subscriber. Not only does it prevent the end user from going to satellite, but it also helps generate a more positive impression of the cable company as a whole."

Trials conducted to see how consumers use and would like to use VOD have resulted in improvements in integration with billing, user interfaces, and backend reporting. In addition, server manufacturers such as Concurrent, SeaChange International, and nCube have built unique feature sets that work in their respective VOD environments. In the interest of retrofitting, the companies that got most of the attention at Cable 2002 were the ones that could give operators the ability to get VOD rolled out quickly and on the client boxes that are currently deployed. Riley said, "the companies who have built the infrastructure and relationships to exploit the deployed boxes are the ones to have the greatest upside in the near term."

It is difficult to calculate the nationwide penetration of VOD since it is not clear which VOD systems have been deployed commercially and which have been deployed on a trial basis, but Riley estimated the number of homes accessing VOD to be around two million.

Joy Zaccaria is production editor of DigitalTV.

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