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All VOD, All Of the Time

Cable providers should work to offer video-on-demand versions of every TV network available, Time Warner Inc. president and chief operating officer Jeff Bewkes said Tuesday.

Combining video-on-demand programming with targeted ads that viewers are interested in would also reduce the demand or need for digital-video recorders, Bewkes told attendees at the opening general session of the CTAM Summit here.

“If you worry about if this is a bunch of B.S., it’s there. HBO is that [all VOD] now. You don’t have to DVR HBO. We should take the whole industry and put it on that basis,” said Bewkes, whose company owns HBO.

One of the biggest challenges in offering on-demand programming via the Internet or pay TV systems is figuring out an advertising model that works. Bewkes said consumers would be willing to accept on-demand programming with advertising if providers deliver spots for products that consumers like.

“That [advertising] can be more efficient. It can be targeted. It knows what you want: fishing gear, etc.,” Bewkes said.

Offering large libraries of free on-demand programming will also reduce the need for pay TV providers to install digital video recorders in the homes of their subscribers, he added.

“If we as an industry can take all of these networks and put them on-demand for free, [operators] don’t need to go installing and worrying about all of that stuff,” Bewkes said.

Putting “the whole industry” on an all-video-on-demand, all-the-time basis would generate the greatest potential for increasing ad revenues, Time Warner executives believe.

“I think it would be from a programmer and an advertiser viewpoint, that would be the most attractive outcome,” said Time Warner Cable chief executive Glenn Britt.

But Time Warner Cable will not try to lead an industry-wide all-VOD effort. “I am not even sure how one would go about doing that,” Britt said. “We are telling people what we are doing. The consumer response is terrific. But beyond that, each company is going to decide on its own.”

Indeed, Charter Communications chief executive Neil Smit was noncommittal. “It could be a good model,” he said. But, he asked, “is it what the consumer wants?’’

Britt said 100 networks are now using the Start Over function that TWC has introduced, which allows consumers to play back a show from the beginning, without skipping ads. All told, 22,000 hours of programming a month are available with Start Over functionality at this point.

Britt said he expects on-demand functions like Start Over, Look Back, Quick Clips and Catch Up will be available throughout Time Warner’s footprint by the end of next year.

Also at the session:

  • Bewkes said one of the biggest challenges in delivering video content via the Internet is determining the advertising model, including whether commercials should run before viewers see the content, or alongside the video.
  • While discussing Time Warner’s decision to change the name of Court TV to truTV, Bewkes said the Court TV brand didn’t reflect the investigative and forensic programming that currently draws the most viewers on the network. “The name seemed not to be true to the larger and maybe equally important hearts of the people that we have a relationship with, what they were doing, what they want,” Bewkes said.

Tom Steinert-Threlkeld contributed to this report.