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TVN Plans Kids Net For SVOD Systems

Attempting to prove that the subscription video-on-demand category is not strictly the purview of premium channels, TVN Entertainment will distribute a kids-targeted SVOD service featuring popular programming from Public Broadcasting Co. and Scholastic Entertainment.

Charter Communications Inc. has signed on to distribute the service, which currently is running in test mode on non-Charter-owned cable systems. Deal terms between TVN and Charter were not disclosed.

The Kids Unlimited package will offer approximately 30 hours of programming and 70 titles per month of content targeted primarily to pre-school and elementary-school viewers as well as their parents, TVN senior vice president of marketing Bev Doughty said.

Barney, Friends

Titles from PBS include such titles as Barney and Friends, Arthur, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and Teletubbies. Scholastic Entertainment titles include Chicken Little, Danny and The Dinosaur, and Sylvester and The Magic Pebble.

Doughty said about 20% to 30% of the content will be refreshed on a monthly basis.

The Kids Unlimited package is actually an outgrowth of a similar SVOD package for children that Diva Systems offered in the late 1990's, according to Doughty, who served as general manager of entertainment services for that since-defunct VOD provider. TVN last year replaced Diva as a VOD content vendor with MSOs that included Charter and Insight Communications Co. Inc.

Kids Unlimited will retail to customers for a suggested monthly charge of $4.95.

"We saw in the early days [of Diva] great interest and great potential in a kids product, so we did some early research and found that over 70% of digital customers had a very high interest in kids programming in an SVOD format," Doughty said. "As a result, we think there's great potential for a commercial-free, on-demand network that costs less than a child's video."

The service will launch this week on Charter digital systems as a standalone SVOD service.

Charter senior director of On Demand and PPV Mitch Miller would not reveal how many Charter subscribers would have access to the service, saying only that "the majority of our large digital markets have on demand, and we will continue to deploy on demand in 2004."

Miller said the MSO was interested in launching Kids Unlimited to help broaden the appeal for the new technology beyond traditional pay-TV services.

"As we look at content, we try to either promote or help to increase the activity of existing product or bring in new subscribers as we hope [Kids Unlimited] will do," he said.

Doughty said the package is already up and running on several test systems around the country, although she would not reveal specific performance figures. "We also have several smaller MSOs that should be coming aboard in the next couple of weeks," she added.

TVN Marketing Plans

TVN will support the package with an extensive marketing and promotion campaign that will include cross-channel spots, direct mail pieces, and ad slicks for systems. TVN is also supplementing the efforts with a customer service representative incentive campaign in which cash awards will be provided to CSRs selling the most packages, Doughty said.

Not willing to rest on its laurels, Doughty said TVN is exploring other genre-based SVOD packages — possibly focusing on health and learning — for distribution in the near future.

"We're very bullish on the idea of on-demand networks, she said. "There are other areas outside of entertainment where you can partner with strong partners and bring in compelling SVOD content."

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.