John Hendricks, chairman-CEO of Discovery Communications, said the company will decide in November or December if Your Choice can be deployed as a business in 1995.
In the meantime, Mr. Hendricks said results are extremely encouraging in the four cable TV markets that Your Choice has been tested in to date, including a recently concluded test on Comcast Cable Corp.'s system in West Palm Beach, Fla.
"Based on our initial test results, it looks like Your Choice TV can be a heavily used information highway on-ramp with a low entry fee and a wide variety of entry options," Mr. Hendricks said in an interview at the National Cable Television Association convention in New Orleans last week.
Your Choice offers a variety of TV programming, including soap operas, newsmagazines and children's shows. Test participants can order shows for less than $1 each.
Of the 2,000 Comcast subscribers in the Your Choice test, 20% bought at least one program, a rate about equal to the current national average for pay-per-view TV programming.
Mr. Hendricks said that statistic is significant because the Comcast system offered only eight program choices at any given time. The newer test markets-including Columbus, Ohio; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Mount Prospect, Ill.-have as many as 24 options.
"Keep in mind, this is an analog test of a digital service," said Mr. Hendricks, noting that usage should increase dramatically on digital cable systems.
In West Palm Beach, 80% of prime-time programs ordered on the menu were purchased outside of prime time, while 72% of all programs ordered occurred outside of prime time.
"It all seems to be incremental viewing," said Steve Seidmon, president of Seidmon & Associates, New York, which is handling focus group research and quantitative research for Your Choice.
Your Choice will spend the next few months trying to determine how much erosion the service has on commercial exposure, network ratings and pay TV services.
What impact Your Choice will have on advertising exposure and revenues for ad-supported programs is not clear, but the research indicates that only about 10% of Your Choice subscribers expressed any opinion at all-good or bad-about commercials in the programs.
"It's important that we are not hearing so much about advertising," said Nancy Stover, general manager of Your Choice.
A Your Choice show contains the same commercials that appeared during the program's regular TV appearance. Advertisers aren't charged for the test.