Disney Channel Unveils On-Demand at NCTA

As the cable industry returns to Chicago this week for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association's annual confab, Disney Channel is unwrapping its first branded on-demand service.

Attendance at the June 8-11 gathering at McCormick Place is expected to be even with last year's in New Orleans, which attracted 17,000 people. Two years ago, though, when the show was last in Chicago, 24,000 people turned out.

Disney's new "Disney Channel on Demand" subscription-VOD service debuted on Cablevision systems June 1 with 25 hours of Disney Channel fare, including tween shows like Lizzie McGuire
and kids toons like Rolie Polie Olie. It also offers Disney Channel original movies but not Walt Disney theatricals. The content will be refreshed monthly.

Cablevision is offering the service for $4.95 per month to Disney Channel subscribers (the net has a mix of basic and premium carriage on Cablevision). That is the same price Cablevision charges for other SVOD services, such as Showtime and HBO. The operator has found that $4.95 "is a manageable price point for consumers," said Kristin Dolan, VP of digital products.

Disney has been planning its on-demand play for a few years. It already supplies programming to Insight Communications' "Kids Unlimited" SVOD service, but this is Disney's first standalone product. Cablevision is the first distributor to sign on, but Disney is in talks with other operators. Because MSOs offer different on-demand pricing and packaging, though, "Disney on Demand version 1.0 could be drastically different than version 5.0," said Albert Chang, ABC Cable's senior vice president of distribution strategy and operations.

No matter the packaging, Chang says Disney's on-demand service will be pay.

At NCTA, organizers are replicating some innovations that worked well last year in New Orleans, including executive suites, and positioning the general sessions and the pressroom on the show floor. Among them is the HD Pavilion, with tech companies and programmers like Discovery and ESPN showcasing their latest HD wares.

For a list of schedule highlights, turn to page 68.