Wednesday, March 08, 2006

VOD Is Flicker Then Hotter

This past weekend I introduced a friend to Charter Communication's VOD.

I think his jaw is still on the living room floor.

He was simply amazed that he could watch Lewis Black's HBO special whenever he wants, as often as he wants. (Yes, he does subscribe to HBO.) He was dumbfounded when I told him to use the VCR-like functions on his remote control. I felt like I was watching a child on Christmas morning, but I fear that he'll never leave his apartment again.

Then came the questions. Oh boy, the questions. How does it work? Can two people watch the same show at the same time on different household TVs? If the neighbors are watching the same show, is he controlling what they see too? How often do the shows change? Can he record while he watches?

All those questions got me thinking. How was VOD implemented in some of the initial market tests? Companies had to use some low-tech solutions in these early pilot programs before they spent significant cash on infrastructure and equipment.

How low tech? Take a look at this excerpt from Price Colman's article in the December 29, 1991 edition of Rocky Mountain News:
Denver, the so-called capital of cable television, will get its crack early next year at a new form of television: VCTV, or Viewer Controlled Cable Television.

About 450 of United Artists Cable's suburban subscribers will be guinea pigs for the interactive service, which will offer an electronic video store with more than 1,000 titles, as well as pay-per-view movies and events.

Although there will be some fancy technology involved - fiber optics, remote-control interactivity - the approach is decidedly low-tech: A technician in a control room filled with VCRs will plug in the movies that viewers request.
Now that's low tech!

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