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February 21, 2012

Time Warner Cable’s 'Talking Pictures on Demand' Unearths Hidden Gems

About a year ago, Time Warner Cable formed a local programming group with the objective of integrating, refining and streamlining operations for its regional content. But another goal was to set standards for that programming at a national level. Enter TWC’s new monthly show (launched in Feb.) called “Talking Pictures on Demand,” a roundtable discussion highlighting lesser-known films on the operator’s MVOD repertoire. CableFAX spoke with Jeremy Bitz, VP, Local Programming & New Media, on the content, inspiration and business strategy behind the show, which he hopes will create a new national standard for quality local content.

What was the inspiration behind the show?

There are other shows that feature the top offerings on MVOD every week and do it quite well—our “Entertainment Tonight”-esque offerings. We wanted an insiders’ guide to the hidden gems—and the depth of movies that are available on MOD. Not necessarily the top blockbusters, but great movies available each week and month that otherwise may go unnoticed or buried in menus. And we’ve got the talent pool throughout our organization to support that, with movie reviewers and critics.

What’s featured in “Talking Pictures on Demand?”

The show addresses themes for that month. In February, you had Black History Month, Valentine’s Day, the Oscar nominations… In March it’s Women’s History Month and more Oscar stuff. And also the main MVOD offerings each month [are discussed]. Right now it’s monthly, but we want to ramp it up to weekly eventually.

And that will that depend on its popularity?

Part of it’s resources, part of it’s popularity. We want to do a lot of programming like this. It’s just a matter of getting it up and rolling and seeing how people are taking to it, when they’re taking to it and why. And then [it’s about] us getting our own production wheels in order so we can do it weekly and be able to maintain it.

What was strategy behind the show?

We formed the local programming group a little more than a year ago, which [brought] in all the different regions across the country under one roof. We were able to look at their programming and the things that matter across the footprint. There are some general topics that transcend state lines, things like movies, theater, travel, pets, food, fitness, restaurant reviews, celebrity interviews, music… things that, regardless of whether you live in Portland, Maine, LA, New York or Austin, are topics people are interested in. VOD hit results, viewer polling and other types of metrics supported those conclusions.

As part of that, I came up with a strategy—that we should have a marquis program in each of these genres that would set the bar…that’s distributed nationally and addresses movie offerings that play and place everywhere across the country…that sets the standard for all of our regions around the country—to produce regional and local movie and entertainment content that helps support the goal and the direction of that national program.

So this is the first national show aiming to provide that standard.

Everything was regionalized before. There was no overarching [strategy, or a] “here’s where we’re headed,” in a programming sense. [This show] was the obvious one, because it ties into a transactional channel on VOD, our corporate national marketing efforts and our journalism efforts on the news channel side. This one was easy, and that’s why we started with it. Because it has a lot of support from a lot of different [parts of the company].

What are your main business goals with this initiative?

“Talking Pictures On Demand” starts as a New York City-based show. It’s being produced out of the facility of NY1, and under a news standard—that way it has a life span on our news channels as well, both linear and On Demand. The next step in this is to utilize our resources around the country. For example, partnering with our folks in Southern California… they’ll be able to do some interviews at the Oscars, pieces that can be incorporated into the show. And we’d do the same thing, perhaps in Texas or the Carolinas.

The home run would be to see that featuring movies in the show, or putting them on the road map, causes an uptick in the rentals of that VOD title on Movies on Demand. Therefore the show had real worth to the transactional content on the Time Warner Cable system. That [would] really show the level of commitment of local programming folks—and that generates budget dollar on the other side.

Kaylee Hultgren is the Community Editor for CableFAX.

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