Uncensored On Demand

May 12, 2003  •  Post A Comment

It’s raw. It’s unedited. It’s uncensored.
No, it’s not the latest show from the Playboy Channel or Cinemax. It’s a new subscription video-on-demand offering from the Independent Film Channel that dares to bare all, in a different way.
IFC plans to introduce this fall a risque showcase of banned, controversial and censored content. The SVOD product is called and will include documentaries, films, series and made-for-TV programs that have been banned from mainstream TV.
The offering is significant because it represents a broadening of the SVOD category and at the same time underscores the challenges the TV business faces in rolling out the latest alphabet soup service.
The SVOD category has largely consisted of repurposed content from premium networks such as HBO, Showtime and Starz, whereas includes material that not only has never been on IFC but probably has never been on television.
Programs will be grouped into categories, including cinema, literature, erotica, music and religion, and each show will include an introductory commentary. Some of the fare includes Damned in the USA, a documentary about the censorship controversy surrounding the work of such artists as Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe; Gerard Depardieu’s 1976 film Maitresse, in which he assists a dominatrix; and the unrated film Talk to Me, about phone sex.
IFC’s philosophy is to provide content that’s exclusive to the VOD platform rather than to repurpose programs from the linear network, said Gregg Hill, executive VP, affiliate sales and marketing, IFC Network.
IFC has yet to approach cable operators about the product, but hopes to spread the word at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association show in Chicago in June. IFC will be flexible in pricing for the operator and consumer, Mr. Hill said. The network plans to offer operators a flat “VOD-enabled home rate,” much the same way that basic cable networks are sold, he said. “We want to have very attractive rates to operators and have great rates to get started to grow this business,” Mr. Hill said.
As other content providers try to figure out the category, IFC is smart to get into the game early, said Bruce Leichtman, president and analyst with Leichtman Research Group. As the category grows, SVOD will likely expand somewhat beyond premium networks, but pricing remains a challenge, he said.
A number of pricing models can be found in the market today.
Comcast does not charge an additional fee for its SVOD fare and folds the cost into the price for digital cable as a value-add. “We don’t want to overincrementalize the customer,” a Comcast spokesperson said.
Time Warner charges $6.95 for all premium on-demand services, so that customers pay one fee to receive HBO, Showtime, The Movie Channel and Cinemax on-demand if they subscribe to those premium channels. Cablevision offers an a la carte model in which consumers pay $4.95 for each premium on-demand package.
When services are individually priced, the model can become too complicated for the consumer, Mr. Leichtman said. A blanket monthly fee for all SVOD products might make the category easier to understand, he said.
SVOD provider Starz Encore is a proponent of the Comcast strategy and prefers to package Starz SVOD with its Super Pak of movie channels, said Greg DePrez, VP, SVOD, Starz Encore Group. The drawback is that operators don’t make additional money immediately. Over time, the price for the combined Super Pak and Starz SVOD could rise a few dollars as customers become familiar with the product and find value in it, he said.
According to the latest study from Leichtman Research Group, about 5 percent of cable subscribers and 11 percent of digital cable subscribers say they have used VOD. Hit movies on demand have the greatest appeal, followed by premium services and TV programs.
IFC also launched an on-demand movie service earlier this month that includes movies on a per-film basis from IFC Films, the film output arm of IFC Companies. The service has been tested with parent company Cablevision.