NEW ORLEANS — Video on demand, which has become the most hotly debated topic during the National Cable Show here, got a big boost with the announcement by the Fox Entertainment Group on Tuesday that it has sold its well-reviewed rookie series “24” and “The Shield” to Chuck Dolan’s Cablevision Systems in the VOD window.
Peter Chernin, president and chief operating officer of Fox Entertainment’s parent News Corp., said during a panel session on programming that it’s the first time a media company has ever offered episodes of current broadcast (“24” runs on the Fox Network) and cable series (“Shield” plays on FX) to a cable operator to use, at no extra charge, in VOD.
In exchange for the freebie, which should help the operator drive its VOD cable boxes to subscribers’ homes, Cablevision has agreed to engineer “significant” promotion across a number of cable channels for the May 21 final episode of “24” and the June 4 season ender of “The Shield.”
Chernin acknowledged during the panel that he’s experimenting with VOD and is still not sure whether Fox’s programming should be offered free to cable operators, or for a monthly subscription or in pay per view.
His fellow panelists expressed concerns about measuring Nielsen ratings for VOD. “If a Discovery program goes from a 1.0 rating to a 0.8 because it’s also available on VOD, Nielsen would have to quantify that 0.2 rating on VOD,” John Hendricks, chairman and CEO of Discovery Communications. “Otherwise, we’d have to charge for it.”
Cablevision didn’t disclose how many of its 3 million subscribers concentrated in the New York metropolitan area actually own VOD boxes. But Cablevision will make every episode of “24” and “The Shield” available in VOD at the subscriber’s whim, with full VCR capability. The arrangement runs through the end of the summer, with a possible extension carrying the deal to Dec. 31.
“Shield” is co-produced by 20th Century Fox TV and Imagine Entertainment and “24” by Fox TV Studios ad Columbia TriStar TV Distribution.