Discovery Networks plans to relaunch its video-on-demand service Sept. 29 with fresh material, adding episodes of current shows to draw viewers and advertisers to the VOD format.
The VOD facelift kicks off Friday, when Discovery provides viewers in Comcast markets an advance look at “Italy: Revealed,” the second installment of the network’s “Atlas” series of country profiles. The show will have a wider debut a week later.
Throughout October, each new episode of “Atlas” will be offered on VOD the day after its network premiere. That’s the same window networks follow with their iTunes TV offerings, a move that helps VOD keep pace with the trendy online service from Apple Computer.
The Atlas initiative jump-starts a new VOD approach for all of Discovery’s channels, which include Animal Planet and Travel Channel. The company is revamping its VOD menus for better navigation and providing extra content such as the premieres, director’s cuts and original short-form fare that the network is dubbing “VOD-sodes.”
Discovery’s makeover occurs amid a recent flurry of programmer activity in VOD, which had been languishing over the last year as broadband became the new darling of media company executives. Cable and broadcast networks that had diverted their energies to the online delivery of TV shows are turning attention back to VOD.
By expanding its VOD slate now, Discovery will enter the upfront selling season next summer with high-profile VOD inventory for the 2007-08 season.
Discovery’s VOD service is sold out. Advertisers include Procter & Gamble, General Motors, Lowe’s, Honda and Xerox. Discovery’s VOD content is available on Comcast, Cox, Verizon and Bresnan, and with Charter starting next month.
“There is a real recognition right now of ad models changing for VOD,” said Clint Stinchcomb, executive vice president of HDTV and new media for Discovery.
The medium still needs better navigation, more precise audience measurement and advertising systems that permit spots to be updated on the fly. Networks are adding top-tier titles for VOD and executives say fresher fare will bolster the format.
“Discovery is doing something a lot of programmers need to do-plunge in and do a little bit of experimentation,” said Paul Rule, president of VOD research firm Marquest Research.