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Charter Produces Concert for VOD

Seeking to boost awareness of its video-on-demand service, Charter Communications Inc. will offer an exclusive, MSO-produced concert featuring actors Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd free of charge to digital subscribers.

The Have Love Will Travel
blues concert, taped live on location at this summer's Ottawa Bluesfest in Canada, will run from Oct. 15 through Nov. 30 and is considered the first event produced by an MSO exclusively for VOD, according to Charter marketing vice president Richard Yelen.

"We need to be innovative in how to attract the customer to sample the product, and we don't think repurposed programming is the way to go," Yelen said. "We think that something that's original and innovative will get subscribers" to try VOD.

Yelen would not reveal production costs for the program, which he said was "network-quality."

As a further incentive to subscribers, everyone who "orders" the concert will receive a free copy of the accompanying Belushi-Aykroyd CD of the same name, which Aykroyd said has already sold 50,000 copies.

"We've already purchased 10,000 copies of the CD. Our biggest concern is what happens when we run out of CDs," Yelen added.

Aykroyd — who said he owns stock in Charter — called the concert and the giveaway an important awareness builder for Charter's VOD service and for the concert.

"The people fortunate enough to be [Charter] subscribers will be able to take advantage of [VOD] that other systems will have a while to catch up on," Aykroyd said in a telephone interview. "This is a reward, and incentive, and a promotion of this new feature."

Added Yelen: "This is the first time where a customer was rewarded for no commitment or no additional action taken. We wanted to make it a fun way to trial on-demand."

Yelen would not commit to producing any other VOD-based programming in the future, but said "we're open for a lot of innovation."

Currently, 41% of Charter's 3 million subscribers currently have VOD access, although Yelen could not provide VOD performance figures. Yelen added the concert event is part of an MSO-wide awareness campaign in about 20 markets that will promote the attributes of VOD programming.

Charter will also develop bill-stuffers, TV and radio spots, and newspaper ads on how simple VOD is and to encourage sampling.

Yelen said it's imperative that subscribers sample VOD, because — much like digital video recorders — once people have used VOD, they'll continue to use it. "Once you try it you create habit. But it's getting over that bump of trying it," he said.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.