Rivers Lends Glitz to Philly VOD

In November, Comcast Corp. switched on its servers and set-tops to enable video-on-demand in Philadelphia. It then launched a $2 million marketing and advertising campaign in January.

But there's nothing like Joan Rivers showing up in your living room with a bevy of goodies to drive the point home.

Rivers, "the queen of the red carpet," helped Comcast ceremonially launch VOD in Philadelphia last week. She arrived at the Joffe family home in Wynnewood, Pa., with merchandise from Comcast-controlled E! Entertainment Television and QVC in tow.

"What better way to enjoy this exciting new service than in a brand-new living room, with one of Hollywood's most engaging commentators," said Michael Doyle, president of Comcast's Eastern division.

The Joffes received E! blankets, T-shirts and Zagat restaurant and movie guides; jewelry and sleeping bags from QVC; and cookbooks from Scripps Networks's Food Network.

Comcast offers more than 1,000 hours of VOD programming, including 200 hours of movies, priced at $3.95.

The Philadelphia-area system offers hundreds of hours of free on-demand content, including programming from A&E, Court TV, Comedy Central, C-SPAN, Bloomberg Television, Food Network, National Geographic Channel, Speed Channel, Scripps, Sundance Channel, Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and NBC.

Comcast also has launched Showtime On Demand and The Movie Channel On Demand.

VOD is available to more than 500,000 digital subscribers in Philadelphia and its suburbs, including parts of southern New Jersey. It's a priority for Comcast this year.

"We're very excited about VOD," CEO Brian Roberts said. "I'm bullish because the content is going to flow and it's going to be a revenue opportunity" for MSOs and programmers.

Comcast downloads content at two sites in Philadelphia, using equipment from both N2 Broadband and TVN Entertainment Corp. Both TVN and In Demand deliver VOD content to the system.

The Philadelphia operation uses SeaChange International Inc. servers, as well as Motorola Inc. and Scientific-Atlanta Inc. set-tops.