Video-on-Demand Service Will Debut in Los Angeles

Video-on-demand (VOD) is coming soon to more than 1.2 million homes in Los Angeles, courtesy of Charter Communications, Inc., the fourth-largest cable operator in the US. Charter has completed an agreement with Redwood City, CA–based DIVA Systems Corporation to provide VOD software and hardware for customers in Long Beach, Pasadena, Alhambra, Monterey Park, Glendale, and Burbank.

The company's Charter Digital Cable package will include a wide assortment of movies and family, children's, and public affairs programming, all available at each subscriber's whim. The necessary hardware includes a "DIVA system" with a Scientific-Atlanta Explorer set-top converter box that will allow users to start, pause, stop, fast-forward, or rewind any program. The rollout in Los Angeles—home to a higher proportion of entertainment-industry workers than any other city—follows an experiment with about 500 viewers in Duluth, GA, a suburban town north of Atlanta. The entire town of Duluth will soon have VOD, according to Charter executives.

"We take great pride in launching our video-on-demand service in Los Angeles, a city that's known around the world as the birthplace and home to the movie and video industry," said Jerald L. Kent, president and CEO of Charter Communications. "This deployment is the largest commitment to VOD and represents another major step in Charter's Wired World vision to bring the power of computing and the convenience of interactivity to the television." The service will begin deployment within the next 90 days in Los Angeles, and will be expanded to other areas served by Charter Communications later this year.

"VOD offers more control over viewing times and preferences and eliminates the trip to the video store and, more importantly, the return trip," Kent said, echoing sentiments made last year by proponents of the now-defunct Divx system. "Plus, few of us can watch an entire movie without some kind of interruption. With this service, customers will have all the functions of a VCR combined with superior digital-cable picture quality."

Kent emphasized that the DIVA system allows users to "stop a program and start watching it several hours later," just as if they were watching a videotape or DVD. David Zucker, president and CEO of DIVA, called Charter's agenda "the largest commitment to deploy VOD in the history of the cable industry. . . . This new Charter agreement is further testimony to the commercial viability and scalability of our video-on-demand TV products and services."