Free VOD Category Loses Tuneful Pair

Free programming on demand, a cable staple, is losing a couple of musical players. Scripps Networks-owned Great American Country has eliminated its free VOD service, and America Online is shutting down AOL Music On Demand.

GAC’s service, on Comcast, Cox and Time Warner Cable, couldn’t be sustained because of problems securing rights to the content affiliates want: music videos. “The short answer is it’s really about music rights issues,” said Doug Hurst, senior vice president and general manager of non-linear distribution at Scripps Networks,which still provides VOD offerings from HGTV, Food Network, DIY and Fine Living. 

But the music industry has been so burned from free downloads – and from the free music videos that helped build MTV – that the cost of securing music videos doesn’t work on a service that doesn’t make much money from ad sales, Hurst said. And music videos are what the affiliates want from a GAC VOD offering, not other forms of original programming GAC might have more control over, he added.

AOL Music On Demand was only on Time Warner Cable, a sister company in the Time Warner empire, and priorities there have changed (to online video promotion) from when the video service launched in 2004. It’s shutting down as of Dec. 13.

AOL, in a statement attributed to Fred McIntyre, vice president of AOL Video, Winamp and Radio, said the service was good for AOL brand awareness and collected a pair of Emmy nominations. 

Still, “operating a successful service on a different platform falls outside of the core focus around which AOL is working to re-align our assets and goals,” he said.