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Cable Offering Free On-Demand Prime-Time TV

15 Oct, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable are among several cable operators that have begun offering free on-demand episodes of ABC and NBC network prime-time television shows.

Showcased under a new MyPrimetime category, the programming includes new episodes of ABC shows “Grey's Anatomy,” “Ugly Betty” and “Desperate Housewives,” as well as NBC shows “30 Rock,” “Friday Night Lights” and first-year series, “Life.”

All episodes are available following their TV network airing.

The cable operators Oct. 16 also will offer horror/thrillers The Reaping and Return to House on Haunted Hill for on-demand viewing ($3.95 each) the same day as the Warner Home Video titles' DVD releases.

Warner has led the charge among the major studios seeking to circumvent traditional DVD rental by making available new release movies on cable video-on-demand (VOD) the same day as the DVD release.

Access to the on-demand TV programming requires a monthly subscription.

Tom Adams with Adams Media Research in Carmel, Calif., said most cable VOD business thus far has occurred with subscription-based services and not $4 pay-per-view movies.

“The numbers are just staggering as to how many sessions the cable operators are serving up of on-demand content,” Adams said. “And the studios aren't seeing much benefit from it yet.”

He said the digital video recorder and VOD have made TV viewing a much better user experience than in the early 1980s when the video store became the preferred way to avoid TV commercials and get the programming the consumers wanted when they wanted it.

“Those were the three things video rental had to itself for a long time,” Adams said. “The networks [and cable operators] have had 25 years to match the freedom of selection of the video store.”

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