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Cable's Day & Date Champion

Based on the early results of some "day and date" trials with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), at least one studio believes offering movies via video-on-demand (VOD) in the traditionally earlier DVD window has some solid potential and doesn’t appear to cannibalize the DVD purchase and rental portion of its business.

Speaking Monday at the Deutsche Bank AG Media & Telecom Conference, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group President President Kevin Tsujihara told the audience that VOD buy rates have jumped 50 percent in the markets where Comcast is trialing the concept, which happen to be Denver and Pittsburgh.

Moreover, the studio has seen a 10 percent rise in DVD-sell-through and only a "marginal impact" on its DVD rental business during the first six months of the trial.

Taking the VOD route might also add up on the bottom line. According to Tsujihara, studios get a much better cut of the revenues -- 60 percent to 70 percent -- with VOD, versus 15 percent to 20 percent through the traditional rental channel.

While those results should be taken with a grain of salt -- since Warner Bros. is considered a corporate cousin to Time Warner Cable, and six months may not be long enough to draw any long-term conclusions -- they still might bode well for cable's pursuit of better (i.e., earlier) windows for movies offered on-demand.

And cable execs are already noodling that next, big step: offering VOD movies at the same time they are released to brick and mortar theaters.

Last month at The Cable Show in Las Vegas, Comcast Corp. COO Steve Burke suggested that consumers might be willing to pay up to $50 for the convenience of watching those films at home rather than making the trek to the local theater. But some theater owners, obviously threatened, want to squash the mere idea, saying they would refuse to show movies that are released at the same time on VOD. (See Box Office Tizzy .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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