4A's: Comcast to measure VOD programming

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[New Orleans] Driven by keynote remarks from Comcast Corp.'s CEO, the most persistent buzz at the American Association of Advertising Agencies Media Conference among the 1,200-plus attendees was that video-on-demand, in the end, may be far more transformational than TiVo.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts opened the event by saying it was his "first 4A's convention, but I know it won't be my last." He explained VOD emergence as an outgrowth of convergence-a term, he noted, almost considered a dirty word by some. "It has been a long time coming. But now there's no doubt that the capabilities of the TV and the PC are becoming fully integrated. And that has profound implications for all of our business."

Huge leaps forward in the computer chip's processing power, coupled with improvements in content storage capacity, Mr. Roberts said, meant that Comcast and others can "really cater to the individual wants of viewers."

Indicating Comcast's commitment to working with marketers, Mr. Roberts announced a new partnership with measurement firm Rentrak Corp., in which Comcast will begin to make monthly on-demand reports available free to programmers and advertisers.

FOUR METRICS

Reports will cover four standardized metrics: the number of VOD-enabled set-top boxes in a designated market; total views by program per month; the number of unique set-top boxes viewing a program by month; and the total minutes viewed by month.

With 21.5 million subscribers, Comcast is the nation's largest cable TV company. It offers on-demand services to more than 17 million customers, most of it in the form of free programming. It estimates on-demand views for February at more than 80 million, and projects that in 2005 its customers will view on-demand programming more than 1 billion times. Comcast's goal, Mr. Roberts said, is to redefine itself as a "new products company" that will offer a range of programming, from movies to special programming such as its "NFL Replay," introduced last fall.

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