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On the road with VOD

In an effort to help cable MSOs drive demand and understanding of video-on-demand among subscribers, investors and regulators, SeaChange International began what it calls the "VOD Ex- perience Tour" last week at the CTAM Summit in Boston.

"The thing about VOD is, once you've experienced it, you want more and more," says James Kelso, SeaChange vice president, advertising systems/marketing and communications. "So the trick is how do you get people to experience it for the first time?"

The truck will serve two functions on the road: One is to give MSOs that have purchased the SeaChange system a chance to demonstrate VOD to potential customers at shopping malls or other public areas; the other is to help SeaChange get more MSOs to become customers.

Making the tour possible is a 41-foot truck. With two complete headends—one for Scientific-Atlanta set-tops and one for Motorola set-tops—plus SeaChange VOD gear, the truck can be put to use by every U.S. cable MSO. With the two headends, visitors don't even need to enter the truck.

"You can set up 20 set-top boxes in kiosks outside of the truck and have people learn more about VOD there," says Kelso.

Visitors are welcome in the truck. Kelso says that, inside, visitors get a more robust story on how HD will work on cable, how ads will be inserted into digital cable and how ad replacement will be done for VOD. It can also become a conference room.

The idea for the truck was born out of last year's Western Show, when SeaChange evaluated its approach to trade-show exhibits. A large part of show costs is for drayage, the charge to get boxes to the show floor. "If we built a mobile exhibit and used it for our shows, we could cut back on shipping and drayage to the point where the truck almost pays for itself out of our current budget," Kelso says. "The added benefit is, this thing could be on the road selling for us and our customers."

Kelso sees demonstration of SeaChange system features as a big advantage over the typical meeting in a conference room, where features are more theoretical than practical.

The truck begins its trek next week in Ashland, Mass., for AT&T and will be visiting Cablevision, TWC and Comcast operations later in the year. The Western Show is also on the itinerary.