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MSOs Help Get Word Out on AIDS

May 9, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Several major cable operators have agreed to offer free programming about AIDS to video-on-demand consumers. The program was scheduled to start May 6.

Cable Positive created the educational content, which was slated to be carried on Comcast, Adelphia, Buckeye, Charter, Mediacom, Metrocast and RCN systems. Together they count more than 12 million VOD-enabled homes, or a little less than half the VOD homes in the country. The content is free to consumers and operators.

VOD aggregator TVN Entertainment digitizes and distributes the content and is underwriting the project at a cost of about $25,000 to get started and about $5,000 a month to maintain, said Kurt Heisler, VP of national accounts at TVN.

“Cable Positive is the charity for cable, and we are glad to support it any way that we can,” Mr. Heisler said.

The content includes the Cable Positive-produced documentary “AIDS in the 21st Century” that ran on Discovery Health in 2002; the Cable Positive-funded documentary “HIV Positive Voices,” and medical news stories such as “The Grim Reaper: HIV and Club Drugs” and “Coping With HIV Drugs: A Personal Story.”

In total, the VOD offering will comprise about two to three hours drawn from 14 short-form video assets, said Thomas Dima, VP of communications, marketing and special projects at Cable Positive. The content is national at the moment, but Cable Positive would like to work with operators and local AIDS organizations to develop localized versions, said Mr. Dima, who is shepherding the VOD project.

Cable Positive has spent a little less than $20,000 this year to develop the content and will look for additional avenues of funding next year to create more. “People are eager for VOD content, [and] operators are eager for VOD content,” Mr. Dima said.

To drive usage of the video, the organization is working with multiple system operator partners and local AIDS groups to create promos informing viewers about the content and emphasizing that it’s free. Many of those promos will air in June around AIDS Awareness Day as well as on other related awareness days throughout the year.

Mr. Dima said consumers will be able to find the content in their VOD menus through category headings such as “Health Information,” “Lifestyle” or “Free.”

Comcast will place the Cable Positive VOD content in its “Comcast Cares” section. That category includes short videos on other issues, including domestic violence, literacy and drunken driving.

The on-demand offering is a natural outgrowth of public service announcements, Mr. Dima said. Since 1996 Cable Positive has distributed $1.1 million in funding to more than 250 local programs that produce PSAs on AIDS awareness. The PSAs have driven on average at least a 10 percent increase in participation in local events such as AIDS walks, he said.

Mr. Dima expects the VOD content will be used for education and said it provides an opening for parents to help explain AIDS to their children. “It provides them with an opportunity to look at real-life stories and begin a dialogue in their home. … We are talking about expanding it to be an educational tutorial,” he said.

Mr. Heisler said TVN is interested in supporting additional public awareness material on-demand.

The VOD platform essentially extends AIDS awareness messages to a year-round basis, rather than limiting them on a few days each year, he said. “Here’s a chance to have content and have it have legs throughout the year,” Mr. Heisler said.