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Time Warner to Expand Start Over

Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) says it will offer its Start Over service to a dozen more areas by the end of the year, extending its reach to 18 markets.

Start Over allows digital cable subscribers to restart specially enabled shows already in progress just by using their cable remote controls. Like a full-fledged DVR, the service also lets viewers pause and rewind shows in progress. But, Start Over does not allow for skipping through commercials [ed. note: sigh] or storing copies of recorded programs.

Keith Nichols, senior director of new product deployments for Time Warner, said the MSO will roll out Start Over to two-thirds of its 27 regional divisions over the next 11 months, after trying out the service in six initial markets. He wouldn't specify which markets will get the service first.

Time Warner began rolling out Start Over in Columbia, S.C., in fall 2005. Since then, the MSO has expanded the service to five other markets: San Antonio, Texas; Greensboro/Winston-Salem, N.C.; Rochester and Albany, N.Y.; and Honolulu, Hawaii.

Nichols says the Start Over service is producing more than 450,000 viewing sessions per week on 160,000 different digital set-tops. He says Start Over viewers are using the service to play back an average of 75 to 90 minutes of programming each week.

In Columbia, Start Over debuted with about 50 enabled programming channels. Now it features nearly 100 networks. Time Warner officials say the lineup will soon increase to 115 channels.

Time Warner executives are also seeking ways to extend the window for playing back shows beyond their normal viewing hours. Plus, they're looking at creating a complementary time-shifting service called "Look Back," which would let subscribers restart programs later on the same day of their scheduled runs.

Nichols says Time Warner officials are weighing whether to start selling sponsorships to advertisers on Start Over.

While Time Warner expands Start Over's reach, Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), continues its legal fight with programmers over a proposed network-based (nDVR) service. Time Warner avoided those initial legal headaches by meticulously negotiating copyright deals for each show enabled on Start Over.

— Alan Breznick, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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