February 5, 2007
In a Bold Move, Lime Moves Operations to VOD and Web--and Away from Linear Model

What I would consider a significant development in the television landscape, albeit not with a particularly significant network, is the decision by those at the head of Lime TV to go the way of NBC Universal's Trio and switch from being a traditional linear channel to instead providing programming through broadband and video-on-demand.

In this case, as opposed to Trio's losing its carriage with DirecTV, the decision to go broadband/VOD was driven by Lime.

The independent cable channel launched by Revolution Llc., the company owned by former AOL chair Steve Case, will be abandoning its traditional cable channel for VOD and alternative, non-linear distribution methods.

Lime originally launched in 2005, acquiring the Wisdom channel and transforming it into a healthy-living network available to 7 million cable subscribers.

In addition to its VOD plans, Lime will have programming available on its Web site and through deals with Joost and Yahoo! Health, according to the Reuters/Hollywood Reporter story from Andrew Wallenstein.

Wallenstein's story attributes the desire to abandon the linear channel for an alternate form of distribution as based on the long road channels have to go down to make a traditional linear cable channel turn a profit. "New independent cable channels could go years without getting payments from distributors in order to obtain carriage while sustaining infrastructure costs," he writes.

Toyota and Garnier are among the brands who have signed on for cross-platform advertising packages through this new distribution, as well as Silk soy milk and Wild Oats Marketplace, two brands particularly well-served for a health-oriented network. Weight Watchers and Nestle are also major advertisers for the Lime Web site.

Jon Lafayette with TelevisionWeek is right on the money, channeling his best Bob Dylan, when he says, "It's almost unprecedented for a network to give up cable carriage to embrace on-demand this way, but times are changing."

Lafayette points to Comcast initiatives such as PBS Sprout, which has launched into a linear channel, and FearNet, which distributes its programming via mobile, broadband, and VOD. In fact, Comcast sees its VOD advances as being one of its strongest growth sectors.

VOD is developing into a profitable sector, especially with measurement companies like Nielsen making advances in measuring VOD purchases and finding ways to balance subscription and pay models for VOD content. For instance, see my November post about Lincoln signing on as the charter advertiser for the Gospel Music Channel's VOD offerings.

I've also written before about the continued expansion of VOD networks into a growing number of homes, such as with the VOD network Music Choice and WWE 24/7 On Demand.