Court TV Sets VOD ‘Justice’ Sneak Peek

Jan 2, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Representing one of the first steps toward offering current prime-time cable content on-demand, Court TV has partnered with Time Warner Cable to sneak-peek a February episode of “Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege and Justice” a week before the series’ fourth season debuts Jan. 16.

Court TV aims to drive linear viewership of the series by showcasing on-demand the “Deadly Design” episode, which delves into the murder of Gianni Versace, a month before its Feb. 6 premiere on the network, a few weeks into the new season. “Deadly Design” is not the first episode of the show’s new season, which starts Jan. 16.

The sneak peek starts Jan. 9 for Time Warner’s video-on-demand customers and also includes bonus material exclusive to on-demand, such as a 90-second highlight reel of the upcoming season and a three-minute interview with Dominick Dunne during which he discusses his life as an author and the murder of his daughter.

“This is the first time we have done a series [sneak peek] on VOD,” said Linda Finney, VP of marketing for Court TV.

The goal is simple: Use the VOD platform to drive linear ratings for the show. It’s a strategy the network has relied on successfully in the past with one-off specials. Last summer the network offered a sneak preview on-demand in Time Warner markets of its special “Scott Peterson: A Deadly Game” from July 30 through Aug. 3 in advance of the Aug. 4 linear premiere. The special generated a 0.8 household rating in non-Time Warner markets and a 1.0 rating in Time Warner markets.

The upcoming promotion will live on the VOD platform for nearly a month, including the entire week before the new season starts. The network is betting that VOD sampling will translate into a bit of a ratings bump for the linear show.

“You have a window of a week to create a little noise and buzz around the new season,” said Bob Rose, executive VP of affiliate relations for Court TV.

However, the Versace episode will remain on the servers for nearly a month before its actual premiere in February, thereby posing a slight risk of lower ratings for that particular episode. But Mr. Rose pointed out that the sneak preview is available only to Time Warner’s digital customers who have VOD, and he does not think that episode will be overexposed. “The majority of people still only see us on analog,” Mr. Rose said.

He added that Court TV doesn’t expect to offer an entire season of a series on VOD anytime soon since Court TV’s VOD offering is limited to about 10 hours at any given time.

Time Warner actively seeks opportunities like this to bring more viewers into the VOD platform, said Eric Goldberg, senior director of programming for Time Warner Cable. “It’s been proven that if you get more people using VOD, they love it,” he said. Last summer’s preview of the Scott Peterson special was the most popular of the Court TV VOD titles during its run, he said.

“The more any network uses both platforms together, the better for us. We just don’t want the VOD channels out there that have content from five years ago,” he said.

Court TV’s sneak peek is exactly the kind of strategy networks need to attract viewers to VOD, said Paul Rule, president of VOD research firm Marquest Media & Entertainment Research. “Networks that fill their VOD menus with leftovers can’t expect consumers to get too excited,” he said.

In fact, a recent Marquest study found that limited programming selection was by far the No. 1 complaint with on-demand-40 percent of homes with access to VOD had this gripe, more than twice the number that named any other problem.