Cable operators ntl and Telewest have launched their first video-on-demand (VOD) services ahead of their long-expected full merger.
ntl said its service, dubbed ntl On Demand, would roll out across the UK, starting with customers in Glasgow. ntl On Demand will provide hundreds of hours of additional programming, including advertiser-free children's programmes, a 'Pick of the Week' option showing a selection of top shows from the previous seven days, a music video jukebox service, and adult content.
The movie service, provided by FilmFlex, a joint venture company between Sony, Disney and the On Demand Group, will offer hundreds of films, including the latest blockbusters and classics.
ntl said no new equipment or additional subscription was required for the VOD service. Customers will purchase individual films and television programmes via the ntl electronic programme guide.
Media groups providing content to ntl include the BBC, Nickelodeon, Jetix, Warner Music, Entertainment Rights, VPL, The Walt Disney Company, Hollywood Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Miramax Film Corporation, Buena Vista International, Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, TriStar, Pathé, Icon Films and Playboy TV.
ntl On Demand will offer DVD style features including freeze frame, fast-forward and rewind, and programmes will be available for 24 hours from purchasing. There will also be an increasing amount of free content available to view at any time. Current films will appear on TV first through VOD, up to nine months before scheduled TV movie channels. To help customers choose which film to watch, full-length film trailers can be viewed before purchasing.
ntl chief executive Simon Duffy said: "We invested over £9bn in our high speed fibre optic network so that we could provide leading access services to our customers. VOD is the latest example of this. ntl On Demand gives our customers a wide choice of quality viewing at a time that suits them. VOD is TV the way it's meant to be."
Telewest launched its movies-on-demand service, also powered by FilmFlex, in Bristol. Eric Tveter, president and chief operating officer at Telewest, said: "We're transforming TV as we know it by launching a truly on-demand movie service, with DVD functionality. This new service puts consumers in control, giving them the freedom to watch the movies they want, whenever they want to watch them. It's simply the easiest way to enjoy a movie and there's no need to visit the video store, miss the end of a film or pay late fees ever again."
Telewest is investing around £20m in the development of TV-on-demand and personal video recorder (PVR) services in 2005. Starting in the summer, the cable company plans to roll out TV-on-demand services to digital TV customers, region by region.
The On Demand Group was formed in 1995, specialising in transactional television services and solutions to telecommunications and media organisations. Seachange, the VOD server supplier, is a major investor.
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