Diva bows VOD service

The video-on-demand revolution is beginning — in King of Prussia, Pa.

Diva Systems Corp. announced this week it is starting true video-on-demand service in suburban Philadelphia, with customers of Suburban Cable in Delaware County, Pa., now able to order films over their cable wire with true VCR-style functionality, including fast-forward, pause and rewind options.

Diva’s OnSet service could potentially reach 10 multisystem operators and 11.6 million homes within the near future, since company execs say they inked either definitive agreements, letters of intent or memos of understanding with the MSOs.

Company chieftain Paul Cook, a former CEO of Raychem Corp. and CellNet Communications, says one of the OnSet service’s biggest advantages is its invisibility to the consumer.

“Cable customers will have all of the enjoyment and satisfaction of choice, convenience and control of their favorite movies at prices comparable to the video store” without any of the associated hassles, said Cook. “It’s what they want to watch, when then want to watch it.”

Cook said that more than 20 studios and other programmers are on board with Diva, including Warner Home Video (which includes New Line Home Video and Turner Home Video), Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Columbia TriStar Home Video and Universal Studios Home Video. In total, more than 2,000 new releases and library titles are available to OnSet customers.

Operates optimally

The Diva/MSO agreement also takes much of the burden for technological refitting off of the MSO’s shoulders, since Diva owns, installs and maintains the hardware involved. The basic delivery principle, digitally encoded video streaming, operates optimally over traditional coaxial cable, which already exists in much of the nation’s wire infrastructure.

OnSet will be rolled out over the next three months or so to two other Suburban Cable networks: in Harrisburg, Pa., and in Wilmington, Del. Additionally, segments of the Ultracom, Cablevision and Rifkin MSOs will be added to the system in 1998.

Cook noted that added functions, such as time-shifting network programming and Internet access, are being developed with an eye toward adding them to the OnSet package by 1999.

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