Wisconsin Channel Is in Demand

Time Warner Cable’s Wisconsin on Demand service is popular enough that it’s expanding beyond the cable company’s Milwaukee and Green Bay divisions to carriage by Charter Communications Inc. in the Badger State.

Charter expects to roll out the on-demand offering, launched in the Milwaukee area by Time Warner Cable of Southeastern Wisconsin last October, in the next few months, according to Mike Haislip, senior vice president of operations for Charter’s Great Lakes Division.

Charter will use some Time Warner Cable content — particularly programming of statewide interest — and add local shows suitable for its distribution footprint, which includes Madison, Fond du Lac and Eau Claire.

“I think it’s a great concept,” Haislip said. “It will be 60 days before we can launch. We’re working on the mechanics of how we will share programming. We want it to be as robust as possible.”

He said Charter is working with the University of Wisconsin to create some educational fare for the on-demand service.

Time Warner’s second Wisconsin division, with 150,000 subscribers in Green Bay-Appleton, added Wisconsin On Demand last December, according to Steve Kim, the division’s vice president of government and public affairs.

The Milwaukee-area division, with 420,000 customers, started the channel as a perk for digital customers that direct-broadcast satellite rivals couldn’t match.

By all accounts, Time Warner in Milwaukee considers Wisconsin On Demand a success. It offers localized programming in several categories, including arts and entertainment; information on tourism sites, sports, “Around Town,” and most recently, with its American Idol-like talent contest, The Rockstar Project.

The service, which kicked off with 80 hours of programming and is now up to 120 hours, is the division’s most-viewed on-demand channel, according to Bev Greenberg, vice president of public affairs.

Since its Oct. 25 bow, the service has had 250,000 viewings, she said.

Back in December, during a brainstorming session, Time Warner officials in Milwaukee came up with the idea of a Wisconsin On Demand reality show. That evolved into finding local talent via The Rockstar Project.

Time Warner, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and radio station WKTI-FM drew 500 people to audition for the contest, which ran from Feb. 16 to March 26. Video from Rockstar was shown only on the on-demand channel, and members of the public voted for their favorites.

“This was a perfect example of using the exciting on-demand technology to develop local programming and local excitement,” Greenberg said. “This Rockstar Project helped to launch some careers, we’re sure of that, and to highlight all the local talent.”

Rockstar Project programming attracted 40,000 orders, Greenberg said, and its Web site (therockstarproject.com) generated 7 million hits. Winner Kevin Patz has a single CD out that’s getting play from WKTI and is being sold in Best Buy.

“We can’t wait for the next contest,” Greenberg said. “We’re doing a battle of the bands right now. And we’ll definitely have a Rockstar 2 Project.”

Talent contests seem to be big with Time Warner systems. In Hawaii, Time Warner-owned Oceanic Cable’s Road to Fame produced Jasmine Trias as its winner. She went on to become a finalist on Fox’s American Idol.