Cox, Turner Look at VOD Fast Forward

An in-house examination of Cox Communications’ MyPrimetime On Demand viewership data suggests that disabling the fast-forward functionality in VOD playback may not necessarily affect consumer usage.

In a trial with Turner Broadcasting System, Cox began testing consumer response to a VOD experience that, for all intents and purposes, duplicates the linear broadcast TV model. In other words, the Turner programs that were made available during the test carried a full spot load; moreover, viewers were not presented with the option to zap through the ads.

Despite the heavy commercial presence––VOD programs generally carry a pre-roll spot and the odd 30-second ad somewhere in the stream, well shy of the standard six minutes of national commercial time per half hour––Cox subscribers did not reject the model. In fact, according to the operator, on-demand viewing of eight Turner programs increased 10 percent over the course of the trial, which began in December 2008.

The tests involved playback of shows that put up big live-plus-same-day ratings, including TNT’s The Closer; TBS’ Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns and Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars. If nothing else, the results suggest that viewer tolerance for commercials in an on-demand environment is directly proportional to how well received the shows are on linear TV.

According to both parties, the results indicate that VOD viewing should be counted toward a program’s Nielsen C3 ratings. MyPrimetime offers all content the day after the original airdate; as such, the service functions as a virtual DVR … If the fast-forward button disappeared from the face of the remote.

“One of the major challenges faced by programmers and distributors in offering consumers greater convenience in time-shifting content has been preserving the advertising business model that enables high-quality programming to be produced in the first place,” said Bob Wilson, senior vp of programming for Cox. “Our work with Turner demonstrates that consumers will view on demand content, with advertising, and that this exposure can be measured; this is a major milestone that will enable more content and convenience for consumers.”

Cox is planning to beef up its MyPrimetime menu this fall, with plans to offer 100 programs, nearly doubling the amount of content now available via the service. Participating networks include the aforementioned Turner properties, as well as ABC, NBC, FX, AMC, WE tv, Travel Channel and Syfy.