Telewest sets launch of video on demand testing

20,000 households to participate in trial

LONDON — Telewest plans to conduct extensive video-on-demand trials early next year, well before fellow cable operator NTL implements its own recently announced VOD plans.

Over 20,000 households in two Telewest franchises will be able to participate in the trials, which will offer about 1,000 hours of programming, mostly movies.

Two companies, SeaChange Intl. and nCube, will provide Telewest with the necessary technology, effectively in competition to determine which outfit will ultimately partner with the cabler on VOD.

VOD will form a key part of Telewest’s 150-plus channel digital TV platform, which is skedded to launch in November, and should be available to more than 50% of Telewest homes before the end of the year. Like NTL, Telewest will look to Front Row, the pay-per-view movie service co-owned by the two companies, to handle programming.

After NTL completes its agreed $13 billion takeover of the consumer business of Cable & Wireless Communications, only two U.K. operators will remain. Many observers expect NTL to also acquire Telewest.