Cablevision Revamps iO Digital Offer

Cablevision Systems Corp. last week changed the pricing structure for iO: Interactive Optimum, its fledgling digital-cable service. The MSO also downloaded a new feature package to subscribers's Sony Corp. set-tops.

To make the entry price for digital more affordable, thus driving new subscriptions, the MSO reduced its digital basic package from $19.95 to $9.95 per month.

Cablevision now charges for access to premium subscription on-demand services on an à la carte basis. SVOD packages from Home Box Office, Showtime and Starz sell for $4.95 per month apiece.

Under a limited-time promotion, the MSO had offered digital-basic subscribers who already took the premium channels with the SVOD packages at no extra charge.

Cablevision told iO customers of the price changes via letter, said spokesman Keith Cocozza.

The software download included a new channel guide that furnishes viewers with more options for finding linear or on-demand programming.

For example, users can now use an actor's name or other key words in a search to obtain a list of matching options among television shows, premium movie channels and video-on-demand offerings.

The menu structure for on-demand content has also been organized under such categories as premieres, movies, HBO, sports, kids and adult fare.

The digital-basic package now includes free-on-demand (FOD) content, including "Thirteen on Demand" from New York public broadcaster WNET-TV. On a time-shifted basis, viewers can now watch their favorite PBS series, such as The Charlie Rose Show, BBC News, Barney & Friends
or Arthur.

Also included with digital basic is on-demand content from the company's Mag Rack video-magazine service, as well as digital music channels, enhanced television and additional multiplex feeds of premium channels.

Among the 26 digital basic networks are four new offerings from Viacom Inc.: Nick Games and Sports, Noggin, Country Music Television and VH1 Classic Rock.

New enhanced TV sites include "Mr. Rogers' Interactive Neighborhood" and "Metro Traffic Center."

The on-demand content also includes help videos for customers who want more graphic instructions than are available with the text help function.

Cablevision's analog subscribers can also upgrade to digital at a cost of $4.95 per month, plus charges for digital set-top box rental to access VOD and the enhanced channel guide.

The MSO, which launched iO in late September of 2001, had 17,200 digital customers at year-end. The company expects to release its first-quarter subscriber count in May.