New TVN CEO to Lead VOD Effort

Newly appointed TVN Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Ian Aaron will look to successfully move the company into video-on-demand distribution service, even as it dismantles its struggling near-VOD turnkey model targeted toward small operators.

Aaron-named last week after five years as president of ISP Channel parent SoftNet Systems Inc.-is expected to drive TVN's digital-content-distribution plan, which includes implementation of a "platform-agnostic" VOD service, TVN chairman Stu Levin said.

Levin added that the company is looking to test its VOD service later this year.

"We are fortunate to have attracted a man of Ian's caliber and energy to lead TVN into the next stage of the company's evolution," Levin said. "Ian's history of deploying satellite and Internet infrastructure at SoftNet, along with his years of experience and relationships in the cable and telecommunications industries, position him uniquely to drive TVN to be a leader in the digital-content-distribution industry."

"It's a great position because it has all of the elements of a successful delivery platform for the future. TVN as a company is clearly at the right place and the right time," Aaron said.

"The company has built over the past five years a satellite and fiber network designed specifically for the delivery and management of TV-quality video and CD [compact disc]-quality audio," he added.

Aaron joins TVN as the company's digital-distribution plan is at a crossroads.Citing infrastructure and operating costs, TVN is unbundling its aggressive turnkey digital near-VOD service, to the dismay of many small and midsized system affiliates.

TVN's decision to transfer all billing operations to an outside company, Great Lakes Data Systems Inc., as well as to eliminate system-headend technical support was a blow to several small operators that are unable to afford the Headend in the Sky platform.

TVN's 34-channel NVOD package covered the cost of upgrading and installing equipment, as well as all of the service's marketing, promotion, billing and technical support.

While TVN would continue to serve its customer base with NVOD programming, Aaron said, MSO consolidation made it difficult for the company to reach the critical mass of systems needed to make the turnkey service financially viable.

"I'm sensitive to the [operator] situation and also sensitive to our cost situation," he said. "We're working very closely with our affiliates to make the necessary adjustments."

"Our NVOD service is clearly going to be the bridge to VOD," Levin added.

Aaron also said the company may look to bring in a number of "strategic" investors to help TVN reach its business goals, although he would not provide specifics.

R. Thomas Umstead

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.