May 11, 2007
Cox and ABC Strike Deal to Bring More Content to VOD, No Fast-Forwarding

According to one of the latest deals struck in the entertainment industry, there is going to be substantial new testing of video-on-demand content for ABC, but that experimentation will disable some of the features that viewers love most.

I was reading through Beth Duggan's recent TelevisionWeek article about the deal between what Variety calls "the Alphabet" and Cox Communications, in which ABC will be testing a variety of content through VOD.

However, in return, Cox will be "disabling the VOD fast-forward option for on demand content and syndicating ABC's broadband player to"

The plan seems to be to marry advanced advertising techniques with the VOD platform, which may go a long way in explaining why the fast-forward option would not be enabled through VOD, although this could be problematic for viewers who had previously been given many chances to fast forward through content they were not interested in.

This would be the first time that a network-specific broadband video player would be syndicated for use by a cable operator. According to Duggan's story, the deal will provide " users in Orange County with the ability to watch ad-supported, full episodes of ABC's prime-time series online the day after they air on the network."

Content will be expansive, and the fast-forward option will be disabled specifically for ABC and ESPN content in VOD.

Video-on-demand continues to be a major question for the industry, as it provides many of the qualities of allowing viewers content where and when they want it but is not as sexy to many media companies as online video. Nevertheless, people are highly interested in using VOD, and a lot of great experimentation is being done in the cable and satellite VOD market.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the special two-part series TelevisionWeek's Daisy Whitney did for the future of VOD. I asked, "Might VOD be the answer of how to marry a lot of archive mining and cross-platform distribution in a way that has a much lower technological barrier than some online models?"

I know that WWE 24/7 On Demand has been a particularly intriguing branded model for Long Tail VOD content, and Comcast seems to be making special efforts to position itself as a leader in the cable industry moving forward partially through its work in VOD.

Back in January, I wrote about Comcast's use of VOD, saying that, "Perhaps Comcast's strongest accomplishment is the development of cable video-on-demand as a viable alternative, educating its consumers to use VOD as a viable form of time-shifting. These programs, many offered free, are usually advertising-supported, and the company has been working to strike a balance for the most effective form of VOD."

I will be intrigued to see how viewers accept the Cox/ABC model and the disabling of the fast-forward option and increase in advertising in exchange for a substantial growth in ad content.