Disney to Offer SVOD Premieres on Cablevision

Disney on Demand, the subscription VOD service from ABC Cable Networks Group, is launching trials of new two SVOD applications this summer with MSO partner Cablevision Systems Corp. that involve early premieres of product and a Kim Possible interactive game.

In June, Cablevision subscribers who have purchased the Disney SVOD package will be able to see episodes of the brand new live-action series Phil of the Future 24 hours before they appear on linear television.

Disney will repeat the preview in August, when SVOD subscribers will be able to see the animated Brandy and Mr. Whiskers 24 hours before the episodes appear on the linear channel.

Each program will have four episodes each month, and all will be available to SVOD subscribers prior to their airing on the linear network.

"We believe there is value [in SVOD packages]," said Ben Pyne, senior vice president, affiliate sales and marketing, for ABC Cable Networks Group. "And with the premieres, we're taking it one step further. We're trying to figure out a way to make it work better and [we're] looking to partner with distributors doing this."

Cablevision is one of two MSOs offering a Disney SVOD package. Cablevision prices its Disney package at $4.95 a month and features 20 hours of content. Insight Communications Corp. is packaging 10 hours from Disney along with other children's content into a "Kids Unlimited" SVOD package.

The idea to create SVOD premieres for Disney on Demand and offer a Kim Possible game grew out of a cross-company working group formed last summer to develop enhancements to Disney's SVOD efforts, said Albert Cheng, senior vice president, distribution strategy and operations.

The premieres "create value to the SVOD package," Cheng said. "It's a windowing strategy, and it also creates a marketing buzz factor for the kids."

Disney is looking to add other new shows to the SVOD premiere schedule, including some of its more popular current series, he said.

The Kim Possible interactive game grew out of a prototype Disney developed last year for the AFI TV Enhanced TV program. It's designed to work with current remotes and set-tops inside Cablevision, Cheng said.

Using the remote, viewers can access a set of VOD programs that contain triggers to collect Kim Possible trading cards. "Viewers use their remotes to snatch the card, which goes into a bucket of cards," Cheng said. "They keep track of what they collect. They can move to a screen to see their collection, and offer to trade cards with other users. If they collect the complete set, it unlocks a bonus video."

Cheng said Disney is working through the technical aspects of the program with Cablevision now and hopes to have a target launch this fall.

Disney will provide Cablevision with marketing materials and will promote both the SVOD premiere feature and the Kim Possible interactive game on-air.

"We are trying to create product that builds the category," Pyne said, "and we think there is something there. There is now more interest from other MSOs."

Cheng added, "We'll do the initial set of programming, [figure out] whether it's a value to them, and determine what else they would like to see."

Disney on Demand's average session time is 22 minutes, Cheng said, and viewers access four to five programs per month. That's not bad, he noted, considering Disney has only 10 to 20 hours of SVOD content each month on Insight and Cablevision, respectively.

"Disney Channel on Demand has been steadily gaining in popularity since it was introduced to iO customers last June, with the number of subscribers increasing by more than 30 percent over the first three months of this year alone," said Theresa Chillianis, Cablevision's vice president of digital and video product management.

Cheng was equally upbeat. "We're getting pretty high utilization," he said, with Playhouse Disney, geared to viewers ages 2 to 5, "consistent through the month" and Disney on Demand surging at the beginning with new product, then hitting a drop-off point.