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Altrio Offers Politicos-on-Demand

In one of the more unusual video-on-demand offerings so far, Los Angeles cable overbuilder Altrio Communications Inc. is offering brief features on the politicians and referenda on next week's election ballot.

Altrio, in conjunction with the Center for Governmental Studies, will give its Arcadia, Monrovia and Pasadena, Calif., subscribers free VOD access to a group of eight videos on election candidates and issues.

The pieces were produced by Pasadena Community Access Corp., which manages public-access channels for both Altrio and Charter Communications Inc. systems, and is distributed on Altrio's free on-demand lineup by the CGS.

The VOD run started Oct. 18 and will conclude Nov. 7.

Six of the videos profile Republican, Democrat and Libertarian candidates for a U.S. House of Representatives seat and a California Assembly seat. The other two present pro and con viewpoints on Los Angeles County ballot measures.

15-minute videos

When Altrio customers want a look, they can select "Elections 2002" on their VOD menu screen. Both referendum videos last 15 minutes, while the candidate videos run five minutes apiece.

Altrio's undertaking "will facilitate voter education by allowing viewers to select a video at a time of their own choosing, and to revisit the tapes at any time," said Center for Governmental Studies media executive director Area Madaras in a prepared statement.

Her organization, which advocates for the use of research and technology to drive voter education and turnout, approached Altrio about a free VOD outreach effort two months ago.

"They saw VOD as another avenue for voter education. We were excited at the opportunity to participate," added Altrio vice president of public policy Brenda Trainor. "So far, it's been wonderful to work with them. This is a pilot project, and a very promising one."

Altrio's overbuilds in Arcadia, Monrovia and Pasadena pass more than 84,200 homes. Trainor said the systems have "many thousand" customers, but wouldn't be more precise.

Metadata synchronization provided by TVN Entertainment Corp. — Altrio's supplier of VOD programming — allows viewers to stop, fast-forward, rewind or replay each video at will.

Separately, Pasadena Community Access will play the videos on its channels at specified times through Nov. 4. Altrio is publicizing the free VOD feature through barker channel identifications, press releases to local media outlets and announcements by customer services representatives.

On-demand availability will continue past Election Day at CSG's request, Trainor said.

"They get a high number of voter information requests after the election, because those people want to better understand the winners and what they stand for," she said. "It's the 'who won' or 'what won' inquiry factor at work."